Igniting Empowerment Through Leadership – Stasshani Jayawardena
Born and bred into a pioneering business family, Stasshani had the privilege of learning from the best. The various learnings and experiences helped her comprehend what is vital for success and realize the gender bias. Considering this, she takes a unique approach to lead through empowerment.
Blessed with privileges and learning!
The key to a successful entrepreneur is the hunger for learning and growth. Stasshani Jayawardena was blessed with prominent mentors and an abundance of learning since childhood. She had terrific sources of inspiration that helped her build her career. “My inspiration and instilled values are derived from the Bible, my parents, family, friends, mentors, and colleagues. This has made me more passionate about my work and to reach a greater height in my career and the journey of life” she explained.
As the daughter of Sri Lanka’s most outstanding entrepreneur, Mr. Harry Jayawardena, she firmly believes that she had two great mentors in her life, her mom and dad. She learned different values from each, but they complemented her to develop her personality and career. “I had the privilege of shadowing a true business visionary, my father. From him, I have learned valuable skills and the importance of courageous leadership. And from my mother, our family’s pillar of strength and support, she taught us patience and kindness, and from both my parents, I have learned the values of faith and integrity.”
Stasshani has worked with many different leaders, thinkers, innovators, and skilled individuals in multiple spheres, especially entrepreneurship. She learned valuable knowledge through them, which has helped her gain success. She adds, “these inspiring interactions have inculcated in me, the relevance of responsibility, the spirit of service, and the importance of entrepreneurship and leadership. To have grace where misconceptions and misinformation, mansplaining, and dangerous behavior run awry. In all of these, I have learned to use wisdom to bring change where possible and persevere when the climb is steep. God strengthens me to empower and be empowered”.
Major Career Milestones!
Her unique and diverse outlook on the realm of entrepreneurship made her competent enough to be appointed as the youngest and first female director in Aitken Spence PLC. She has worked closely in launching ‘Heritance Aarah’ – the first premium Heritance brand of Aitken Spence and the first LEED Gold Certified property in the Maldives. She was the lead in extending the destination management into Myanmar.
Stasshani strongly believes in empowerment. Therefore, she took multiple initiatives in empowering women into the workforce and rolled out a company-wide strategy to empower the women in hospitality. She talks about a recent project that she worked on to promote female empowerment, “We have invested heavily in creating conducive environments for women participation in the workforce. The Rs. 70 Mn investment in the Heritance Kandalama women accommodation was the start to a value-driven strategy around the heart of our organization within the next few years”.
This is a beautiful initiative by Stasshani towards the cause. Women’s discrimination is a global issue faced for many long years. It’s delightful to hear that influential entrepreneurs such as Stasshani are committed to uplift their society along with them.
The problem of gender bias still exists!
Gender bias has existed for many years. Many women have not got the opportunity to showcase their skills and grow a corporate career due to gender bias. Stasshani was exposed to the realities of this issue, and it shocked her. She explains, “there should not be a gender bias when it comes to managing a business, and the focus should be on the person’s talent and ability. It was eye-opening to enter the corporate world and see the existence of a warren of gender bias in business management for myself. I was quite shocked and perplexed that the same biases I observed and heard of as a child in the shadows at many business settings and conferences worldwide were still very much around. This only made me commit to being a better leader – one that chooses to empower”.
What differentiates Stasshani is that she chose to stand up for the discrimination by empowering them. It is not about male or female. It’s who can do a better job. Therefore, Stasshani has engaged herself in activities and projects aimed at female empowerment and providing them the opportunity they deserve.
Paying attention to a healthy lifestyle and physical well-being
Stasshani is a firm believer that one must determine their own lifestyle choices and find that balance from within – an enriched journey once one discovers their God/pre-destined purpose where you are meant to shine. She actively engages in training her mind, heart, soul, and body. Mental and spiritual health is generally avoided when speaking about health and well-being. She picks on a topic that is taboo to some – mental and spiritual health.
She shares her views on the importance of maintaining overall health, “many link health and well-being most to the physical body but it’s imperative to pay attention to your spiritual, mental/psychological, and emotional spheres of your life as well.”
Stasshani has always had a strong vision and future plan. Being quite the visionary, she shares insights on her future plans, ” i hope to take Aitken Spence and all the companies I am attached to and in my sphere of leadership to the next generation with the core values of integrity, sustainability, entrepreneurship, empowerment, and equal opportunities. While harnessing the creativity and innovative talent and the transformative experience and information enriching power of technology and data”.
Some advice to aspiring entrepreneurs!
Stasshani wishes to empower the future generation and thus ends with some essential advice to aspiring entrepreneurs:
- Understand your strengths and be appreciative of yourself. This will help bring out the best version of you
- Be dedicated, hard-working, and persistent yet patient
- Strive for excellence in even the smallest of tasks assigned to you
- Stay true to your values and principles
- Maintain integrity and honesty
- Be Courageous. Trust your instincts. Do not fear to challenge the norm or ask questions. Only when you do this will you identify new and better ways of doing things
- Uplift and help others grow. We grow by raising each other