Rajitha Jayasuriya, the untiring advocate of women’s empowerment
just one conversation with this humble lady will make one understand her true passion; she is an unwavering beacon of light for Sri Lanka’s women in need, as detailed further in this inspiring interview.
Rajitha Jayasuriya is a believer of Christ, wife to a battle-hardened soldier and a mother to a beautiful daughter and an adorable son. She is the Director, Sales & Marketing of Capital Heights Apartment Project, a venture by Access Engineering PLC. She has also served as a member of the Sri Lanka Army’s Seva Vanitha Movement since the day she married a man in the olive greens. Her involvement in this movement has contributed towards the lives of widows and orphans by raising funds, scholarships and donations to uplift their standard of living and education. However, just one conversation with this humble lady will make one understand her true passion; she is an unwavering beacon of light for Sri Lanka’s women in need, as detailed further in this inspiring interview.
Please reflect on your corporate journey
I entered the corporate world in 1997, with the Ceylinco Consolidated Group, as an Assistant Sales Manager. My journey up the ladder unfolded with consistent progress over time. Heaps of dedication, commitment, attention to detail and hard work were involved along the way. I am also grateful for the sacrifices made by my family along with the support of all my colleagues in every sphere of work; for without them I would not be where I am today. The training, grounding, leadership and the opportunities I received from the Ceylinco Group of Companies brought out the iron inside myself.
Currently you are the Director, Sales & Marketing for Capital Heights, what are some workplace challenges you face?
Capital Heights is a venture by the Access Engineering PLC. Commencing a new project of such a magnitude was a challenge. Getting the right-person for the job of sales was a tedious task. So far, my team has stayed with me for the last 3 years. The biggest challenge that I face is to have committed and dedicated sales personnel, as it is a job that demands time during holidays and weekends; we do not merely sell an apartment, we are selling a home and a lifestyle to a family!
You are also the founder and CEO of Sozo Lanka, a nonprofit arm of an organization which is firmly involved in supporting and empowering women in need and guiding the girl child; do tell us more about it
Growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership. Harvey S. Firestone, who said this, knew that a leader has to grow first in order to grow others. As a child growing in a Christian home, I always saw my parents, who were both teachers, imparting influence on the poor and the needy. I was raised in a home where we love God and love others better with great empathy.
Over the years this burning desire to be there for children and women grew to what is SOZO Lanka today. My own life struggles, challenges of being a Soldier’s wife and raising my two children most of the time as a single parent made me the person who I am today. I became extremely sensitive to the needs and emotions of others, as I was able to relate to people from various walks of life.
So, if you cannot influence people, you cannot lead. Over the years, I have become a more well-rounded leader, employee and a co-worker. My involvement with SOZO Lanka is mostly remote and in person, if my presence is needed by a child, single mum or a woman who is physically or emotionally battered, I am right there, with them as a tower of strength and comfort. I also have my bunch of lovely girl friends who support myself in this calling I pursue.
I do seek opportunities to support struggling women and girl children to truly win! When you put others first, you also walk with strong supporters, partnerships, referrals and a network of people who will stand by you, no matter what. It is good to say, love people over ambition and watch the magic unfold.
This is my passion, my calling SOZO, meaning impartation of a wholesome life and the wellbeing of the total person, Spirit, Soul, Body and Mind!
Have you been subjected to differential treatment because you are a woman?
In our society it is a common factor. But I have never been subjected to differential treatment, maybe because I do come across very strong if this is a fact. Nevertheless, I must say, that I was discriminated by a man because of another woman. Under my leadership, I will ensure this does not happen to any woman in any organization I would be working now or in the future.
What are your tips for shattering the glass ceiling which stands in the way of women advancing as professionals?
A woman must stand up firm for another woman! We need to be like the Sunflowers; when the Sun is not up or gloomy the Sunflowers turn to each-other; this is my motto in life and I would like to promote the same to women in business and in empowerment! Scholars say, it is wise to teach our daughters to worry less about fitting into glass slippers and more about shattering glass ceilings!
In your opinion, what is it that makes a woman a better leader?
Women are significantly more empathetic than men. A woman is willing to absorb everything inclusive of the positives and negatives that come with life. She stands out because she is able to flush out the negatives in order to build on positive traits which will in turn influence the people around her. A woman who is a mother, in the corporate world also exhibit the heightened trait of empathy. They are more understanding of employee requirements when it comes to family and children, because the chances are that she can relate to the same on a personal level. This is also why I say that becoming a wife and a mother gives balance to the career of a woman.
Are there any elements of corporate culture in Sri Lanka which you would like to change?
It is desirable to see more women appointed as department and business heads where they can enjoy the same remuneration which would be offered to a man carrying the same responsibility, without a gender-bias.
Do you have any advice for budding women who seek to climb up the ranks just like you?
Time wasted is time lost! Going to the next level or the next dimension in your life is not an easy task unless one is ready to be totally committed and consistent, together with willingness to be trained and cultivate staying power in one place of work. Ceylinco was that one place for myself, where I stayed for 10 long years. My faith and belief in the one above, doing my best, walking an extra mile for another and positive culture is the key to my success!
On a final note, may I say “when riches increase as you climb up the ladder, don’t increase your standard of living but increase your standard of giving”.