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Shaping Labour Policies in Sri Lanka

Shaping Labour Policies in Sri Lanka

Advancing professional women’s careers in Sri Lanka

Research conducted by Dr Dulini Fernando on highly skilled women's career development in Sri Lanka has played a central role in shaping policy at Sri Lanka's Department of Labour.

The challenge

Policymakers, educators and business organisations in Sri Lanka have repeatedly expressed concerns about the under-representation of women in senior positions. Women comprise 63.2% of the total number of professionals in the country, however, they account for only 20% of all senior officials and managers. Dr Fernando explored Sri Lankan women's career aspirations, their perceptions of gendered barriers and career strategies and how Sri Lankan employees, namely in ICT, accounting and finance firms, experience and navigate performance demands and normative expectations in the global knowledge work industry.

Our approach

Dr Fernando was invited by the Department of Labour to write a White Paper on ‘Gender and Working in the Night’ in Sri Lanka's globalised knowledge work industry (ICT is the largest and most profitable sector within this industry).

This White Paper, based on in-depth qualitative interviews early, mid and late-career women and line managers, recommended that

  • Legislation should be gender-neutral.

  • Organisations should be encouraged to provide transportation for all employees who work night shifts.

  • Policies should be implemented to ensure that citizens who travel at night do not encounter any form of harassment on the road.

  • Gender issues should be addressed within the curriculum at school level.

Following this, Dr Fernando further influenced organisational labour policies and practice through tailored training and bespoke support.

Our impact

Dr Fernando’s research has had an impact on women’s employment in Sri Lanka in two key ways.

  • Relaxing regulations placed on women working in the night in Sri Lanka: The ‘Gender and Working in the Night’ White Paper, influenced labour policies within Sri Lanka's Department of Labour. This led to the Commissioner-General of Labour recommending to relax regulations placed on women working in the night in the ICT.

  • Influenced organisational labour policies and practice in Sri Lanka’s ICT sector: Fernando has worked with a diversified international market infrastructure and capital markets business, employing over 200 women. They own a Sri Lankan-based organisation which provides in-house IT development capability to serve the Group's various businesses and which also sells and licenses exchange related technology and services to capital market businesses across the globe. Dr Fernando’s research was used by the business to encourage managers to allow for some 'controlled deviance' (turning a blind eye towards employees deviating from time expectations and procedures to some extent and to women refusing to work certain shifts to ensure that cultural restrictions do not hinder their career progression) thus adopting a more culturally sensitive approach to human resource management.

Dr Fernando provided training programmes for ICTA (a government ministry established to further the ICT sector). These programmes have further supported organisations with human resource management approaches that have afforded women’s empowerment over their career paths and raised line managers' competencies on gender-based diversity and inclusion.

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