WiLAT celebrates half a decade of presence in Sri Lanka

Monday, 2 April 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Rahel Kirinde

Women in Logistics And Transport (WiLAT) marked its fifth anniversary last Friday with the ‘Press for Progress Via Sustainable Logistics and Transport’ conference at the Kingsbury Hotel.

WiLAT Chairperson Dhashma Karunaratne addressed the gathering by thanking partners, ExCo members, and everyone else for their commitment. 

“Businesses today emphasises on optimising productivity by tapping into every available resource and reaching full potential,” Dhashma said, adding that a recent report released by the IFC shows that the global economy underutilises a staggering 48% of its available productive potential, the women. “Research proves that women are powerful agents of change and inherently nurture the pathways to sustainability,” he said.

“The ‘Diversity Matters’ report of Mckinsey states that companies with gender diversity are more likely to receive financial returns 15% above the industry median,” said Dhashma.

Chief Guest Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) International President Kevin Byrne said, “WiLAT is a very important element of the CILT family; when WiLAT was launched in Sri Lanka in March 2013 it was the head of the WiLAT Global Community.”

WiLAT as a member of CILT holds the same level of capability and can assist in any plans that are made in this field formally because we can provide top quality training, education and expertise in land, sea and supply chain operations at all levels,” said Byrne. “On the other hand the CILT can do so much for its members in both a personal and professional sense; it can be your partner for life with the continuing professional development available, the network in events, the mentoring, the influence and the advantages that come with being a member of large widely recognised organisation.”

“The percentage of companies worldwide without any women in the senior management is as high as 33%,” said WiLAT Hongkong founding member Miriam Lau during her speech ‘The need for sustainable logistics in the context of the present world economy and why women are suitable to be champions of sustainable logistics?’

Lau mentioned that PWC’s transportation and logistics 2013 report states that companies with women in the board of directors as opposed to companies without any female directors have shown to have 16% more return on sales and 26% more return on investment. “WiLAT was formed to provide a background and platform for gender diversity in logistics and transport.”

CILT Sri Lanka Chairman Captain Lasitha Kumarathunga acknowledged the service of WiLAT by saying, “Half a decade of promoting the careers and job roles of women in the field of logistics and transport is a remarkable achievement.” He pointed out that historically women have been underrepresented in the fields of logistics and transport.

“In Sri Lanka specifically culture and old traditions have caused gender biases over the past few years, but at present many Sri Lankan women have achieved the highest possible position in their respective fields.”

“WiLAT can be the pillar of strength that scrapes our ignorant old fashioned and traditional thinking and inspires young girls to be leaders in corporate fields such as Finance, HR and Communication in essence to logistics and transport,” said Captain Kumarathunga.

WiLAT founder Gayani De Alwis said, “When we founded WiLAT the awareness about career opportunities for women in this industry was very low, only 3% of women were in logistics and transport; our first major task was how do we get enough women to the industry.”

“We focussed on three different areas, firstly we did many programs to create awareness among young school girls, secondly we had to work on retaining the women already in the industry and finally we worked on getting as many male advocates involved as possible on our journey.”

“In our minds males and females bring different skill sets to the table and it will be synergistic to create value together.”

Gayani mentioned that they partnered with UN Women and in 2017 they reached out to many companies and asked them to sign up for the ‘HeforShe’ 10x10x10 impact program which showcases CEO commitment for women empowerment principles of UN Women. “We are encouraged by the support we got from all the top companies of the country by signing up for this.”

Cutting the 5th Anniversary Cake 

The 10 local companies that signed up were Aitken Spence, EFL Expo Freight, Hayleys Advantis, John Keells Holdings, Colombo International Container Terminals, South Asia Gateway Terminals, Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Maclarens Holdings, Hemas Holdings and Unilever.

WiLAT is a group formed within CILT territorial organisations and branches. It was launched globally in June 2013 to promote the transport and logistics industry to female members and to encourage and support their career development. 

WiLAT was launched in Sri Lanka on 21 March 2013 ahead of its global launch. It was one of the five pioneering fora in the WiLAT global community. Currently it has 1,600 members in 16 different countries and continues to grow.

WiLAT membership is fully dependent on membership of CILT. Female members of CILT automatically become members of WiLAT.  

The international WiLAT Conference is the premier networking event for women in the logistics and transport industry. Held annually during CILT’s International Convention, it is a chance for members from all over the world to share their experiences, learn from each other and celebrate the major achievements of women in this industry.

In June each year WiLAT members and supporters around the globe join together to celebrate Founders Day. It includes a variety of activities from walks and visits, to meals and cocktails; it is an entertaining day out and a great chance to meet up with fellow professionals from other countries in a less formal setting.

As a movement of fulfilling responsibilities to society and the planet WiLAT encourages members to seek alliances with like-minded groups and work together towards a more sustainable and developed future. Currently WiLAT has joined forces with Earth Hour to promote green values within the country.

Pix by Indraratne Balasuriya