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“Life is a challenge whether you’re a man or a woman”


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HDFC Bank Chairperson Siromi Wickramasinghe says her key inspiration as a career woman is the work-life balance she has achieved over the years. “From a family perspective, my children have grown up to be very responsible and have become professionals in their own fields. The secure life together as a family has given me a sense of fulfilment in my life. From a career perspective, I am proud of my achievements both as a woman and as a professional. To that extent the achievements are many,” she affirms, in an interview with the Daily FT. Pointing out that you must balance your personal life in order to achieve the goals you have set at your work place, Siromi asserts that life is a challenge whether you’re a man or a woman and it is important to plan your day to give the attention a child needs when growing up and also focus on the pressures of work to stand out amongst your peers. “I feel I have always done the correct thing in my family life and career. I wouldn’t want to change anything and I am proud of what I have achieved in both roles,” she adds. Following are excerpts:   Q: Why did you choose to be a working mother? A: After passing out as an Attorney-at-Law of the Supreme Court
 
 Siromi Wickramasinghe and family
  of Sri Lanka, I was keen to practice law as a fulltime lawyer. I was not married at that time and even after marriage I continued to work. The privilege of being a member of the Sri Lankan legal fraternity and the opportunity to be a part of something I loved doing were the motivating factors.   Q: How do you balance the demands of working and raising children? A: I started work as a management trainee at Hatton National Bank when my second son was to be born. At that time I was aware of the demands of motherhood as I already had a two-year-old son. As a young banker just starting out, the demands were not as challenging as being in a senior position. Therefore, I was able to spend more time with the children at the early stages of their upbringing.   Q: Could you describe a day in your life? A: Well, my day starts at the Credit Counselling Centre, where I spend the first half of the day advising people who have financial difficulties with banks and other related institutions. Thereafter, I proceed to the HDFC Bank, where I am presently the Chairperson. Here, I have my scheduled meetings and I attend to other matters that crop up during the day that need my attention.   Q: How was your decision to work after having children accepted by your family and those around you? A: Since I was very young, when I started work, my family always supported me and went out of their way to make my life comfortable to manage both the family and work.   Q: What are the positive and negative reactions you have encountered along the way? A: In advancing my career, the hardest thing was to be accepted as an equal by male peers. The gender bias was more prominent during that time than it is now. However, once you establish yourself as a friend and a professional who could be relied upon, gaining acceptance is easier.   Q: Looking back, what would you do differently? A: I feel I have always done the correct thing in my family life and career. I wouldn’t want to change anything and I am proud of what I have achieved in both roles.   Q: Are you satisfied with the level of recognition for women, their voice in national issues? A: Women have been given the right to voice their opinions without any reservations in the present times. Today, many women hold important positions in both the private and public sectors and have been given the independence to excel in their fields.   Q: What new roles should women/mothers play in the future? A: Women/mothers are today looking more and more towards getting into employment and obtaining higher education qualifications. Women and men face the same competitive exams and we see many women excelling and doing better than their male counterparts. As such, it could be expected that in the future more women will take up responsible roles and occupy top slots.   Q: In terms of policy, what changes would you like to see that would assist working mothers? A: The rules set out in many organisations already give working mothers leave to attend to their maternal duties. The existing laws which provide the necessary leave from work are adequate. It is up to women/mothers to balance their lives with the pressures of raising children.   Q: Your advice to aspiring career women who intend to continue after they have children? A: When you have set your goals at your work place, you must balance your personal life in order to achieve it. Life is a challenge whether you’re a man or a woman. Today, the pressure of bringing up children is equal to both father and mother as both undertake higher education studies with the idea of reaching high positions at work within a very short time. Therefore, plan your day to give the attention a child needs when growing up and also focus on the pressures of work to stand out amongst your peers.   Q: Any tips you can share with working moms? A: Spend more time with your children during their growing years as it is important that they do not go astray, and learn the importance of family life and sharing love.   Q: How do you stay inspired and continue on your chosen path? A: The key inspiration is the work-life balance I have achieved over the years. From a family perspective, my children have grown up to be very responsible and have become professionals in their own fields. The secure life together as a family has given me a sense of fulfilment in my life. From a career perspective, I am proud of my achievements both as a woman and as a professional. To that extent the achievements are many. This balance of family and work drives me to continue to be of service until such time I think it is good to retire from active work life.

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