Business & Finance

Women in Management, IFC and Government of Australia recognise inspiring women from Sri Lanka and Maldives in ‘Top50’

Professional and Career Women Awards 2021

The ‘Top50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2021 – hosted by Women in Management (WIM), in collaboration with Women in Work, a partnership between IFC and the government of Australia – recently honoured inspiring professional and career women in Sri Lanka and Maldives making a mark in their respective fields.

The 11th edition of the awards ceremony celebrated women representing a wide array of professions from industries including hospitality, banking and finance, logistics and supply chains, entrepreneurship, and media and law, among others, for excellence in either their chosen careers or for inspiring women in their community. The awards also lauded Sri Lankan corporates that have supported the growth and empowerment of women in the workplace.

Top awards were conferred to Dr. Maheshi Ramasamy (Inspirational Professional Woman of the Year), Prof. Nadira Karunaweera (Inspirational Woman of the Year), Aruni Goonetilleke (Trail Blazer), Randhula De Silva (Game Changer of the Year) and Dr. Vajira Chithrasena (Judges Award). The full list of awardees is listed below.

“The 2021 awards are a celebration of resilience, optimism, hard work and growth. As we step into a third year of a pandemic, this year’s winners remind us of the possibilities and opportunities that can exist in adversity,” said Dr. Sulochana Segera, Founder/Chairperson of Women in Management (WIM). “They also remind us of the extraordinary potential women in Sri Lanka and the Maldives are capable of, especially in challenging the status-quo for greater good. Women are often hesitant to take their spot in the limelight, but over the past decade, the Top50 Awards have created a platform helping them showcase their talents and achievements, and importantly to inspire others.”

With over 470 past award winners, the ‘Top50’ Professional and Career Women Awards aim to showcase the significant role women play as leaders, employees, entrepreneurs, and stakeholders in contributing to sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the country.

Marking IFC’s seventh consecutive year in co-hosting the event, Victor Antonypillai, Acting Country Manager for IFC Sri Lanka and Maldives said, that “To ensure a resilient recovery, the path should be gender inclusive – women should be at the heart of the path to recovery. We need to ‘build forward fairer’ for economies and societies to build back better.” Supported through the IFC-DFAT Women in Work program, this year’s Top50 Awards aims to showcase the resilient leadership Sri Lankan women have shown, amid a pandemic.

Also, speaking at the event, David Holly, Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Maldives remarked that, “Over the years, the ‘Top50’ Awards have shown the power of women in business inspiring many others in leadership and in society more generally. The 2022 Awards are a tribute to the resilience of Sri Lankan women, particularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ‘Top 50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2021 were powered by Dialog, along with Gold Sponsors Salota International and Singer. Silver sponsors for the awards included Lanka IOC, Unilever, Vision Care and Aitken Spence. Maliban and Sampath Bank were also sponsors of the event, and the gifting Partner for the award ceremony was New Vivya.

Speaking of the award winners, Nadija Tambiah, Head of Legal, Secretarial and Corporate Social Responsibility at John Keells Holdings and Chair of 2021 Judging Panel, said that the “quality of the women who were nominated or who applied this year was impressive. We were forced not only to look at the accomplishments of these women in their chosen vocations but also what impact they have had in the industry and what they have done for women in their organisations.”

This year’s Judging Panel—chaired by Nadija Tambiah—included Jayanthi Dharmasena, Managing Director of Hayleys Agriculture Holdings Ltd; Kishu Gomes, Group MD/CEO of Dreamron Group of Companies; Nisthar Cassim, Founding Editor and CEO of Daily FT; Rohantha Athukorala, CEO of Clootrack Sri Lanka/Maldives & Pakistan; Sandra De Zoysa, Group Chief Customer Officer at Dialog Axiata PLC; Sandya Salgado, Strategic Marketing Professional; Santosh Menon, CEO of KL.LK; Amanda Jewell, Acting Australian High Commissioner for Sri Lanka; and Sarah Twigg, Program Manager for Women in Work at IFC.

BOX: ‘Top 50’ Professional and Career Wo

men Awards 2021 Winners

Category Name Designation Organization
Human Resources (includes HR, HRD & IR) Dinali Peiris Group Human Resources Director MAS Holdings, Member of the Board of MAS Capital (Pvt) Ltd. (Apparel Board)
Banking Industry (Banking Professionals) Keasila Jayawardana Chairperson National Savings Bank
Finance Services (Finance Professionals, Auditors, Insurance services, Stockbrokers & Leasing) Dinali Katipearachchi Vice President Aitken Spence Corporate Finance (Pvt) Ltd
Marketing & Marketing Communications (Sales, Brands, Customer Care, Public Relations) Kavindra Rajapaksa VP/Head of Marketing Softlogic Life Insurance PLC
 Legal Ambika Satkunanathan Human Rights Lawyer and Fellow Open Society Foundation
State & Government Sector Grace Asirwatham Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and Head of Mission to the European Union Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sri Lanka
Corporate Communication Manindri Bandaranayake Chief Branding Marketing Officer Janashakthi Group
Digital Media Tharindi Thalahiti Deputy Editor Pulse – Derana Macroentertainment Pvt Ltd
Supply Chain & Logistics Deborah Dissanayake General Manager Sales Expolanka Freight Pvt Ltd
Hospitality Industry (Careers in Tourism, Food & Beverage, Travel, Transport, Meetings & Events, Entertainments & Attractions) Chandra Madanayake Managing Director Fab Foods Pvt Ltd
Arts & Entertainment Industry Anoli Perera An artist and arts writer
Defence Force & Civil Security SSP R. A. Darshika Kumari Director The Bureau for the Abuse of Children & Women
Sports Thampu Nelka Shiromala The first ever Sri Lankan Boxing referee and judge who officiated at the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics
Educator (Educational Institutes, Schools, Universities etc.) Prof. Mangala Gunatilake Associate Professor/Professor, Depart of Physiology, Managing Director


Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka Association for Laboratory Animal Science
Science, Technology & Research Prof. Hiranya Peiris Professor of Astrophysics at University College London (UCL), Director of the UCL Cosmoparticle Initiative, and a Director of the Oskar Klein Centre for Cosmoparticle Physics in Stockholm
Health & Medical Sector Dr. Padma Sriyani Gunarathna President Sri Lanka Medical Association
Corporate Leader of the Year Vidya Sivaraja Managing Director Fonterra Sri Lanka & India
Woman Board Director of the Year Thushara Wijewardena Non-Executive Independent Director Commercial Bank of Ceylon PLC
Career Role Model of the Year Thilanka Abeywardena CMO Lead – South East Asia New Markets Microsoft Sri Lanka
Business Role Model of the Year Fazeela Dharmaratna Proprietor CeeBees Preschool and Child Care Centre and Creche Services
Male Champion of Change Ajay Amalean Co-Founder/Chairman MAS Holdings
Social Change Maker of the Year Devadharmini Selvika Sahathevan Executive Director United Humanity
Inspirational Professional Woman of the Year Dr Maheshi Ramasamy Clinical Medicine, Medicine British-Sri Lankan physician and lecturer. She is currently working as one of the chief investigators at the Oxford Vaccine Group.
Inspirational Woman of the Year Prof. Nadira Karunaweera Chair and Senior Professor of Parasitology Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo
Trail Blazer Aruni Goonetilleke Chairperson HNB Bank
Game Changer of the Year Randhula De Silva Founder CEO GLX (Good Life X)
Judges Award Dr. Vajira Chithrasena Veteran Sri Lankan traditional dancer, choreographer, and teacher
Print Media Chandani Kirinde Senior Journalist Wijeya Newspapers Limited
Electronic Media Chethana Liyanage SATANA Political Presenter Sirasa – Maharaja Group
Career Achievements Shani Calyaneratne Karunaratne Ambassador-designate at the Sri Lanka Embassy in Lebanon Embassy of Lebanon
 Career Achievements Devika Ellepola Sales Manager – Commercial Operations, Sri Lanka Emirates Airline
 Career Achievements Darshika Jayasekara Project Director – New Bridge Construction Project Over Kelani River Eng.
 Career Achievements Summaiya Macan Markar Chief Legal ,Compliance and Privacy Officer Allianz Insurance  Lanka Ltd
Local Global (Outstanding Personality who is Sri Lankan and leading global venture) Suhanya Raffel Museum Director M+, Hong Kong
Positive Media Campaign on the empowerment of Women NDB/SIRASA “Sri Lanka Vanithabhimana”
Best NGO/INGO or Association Fostering Women’s Empowerment SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka
Best Organizational Culture Award (Gender Equal, Inclusive and Respectful Workplace) AIA Insurance Lanka Ltd
Best ESG Project on Women’s Empowerment by an Organization Hirdaramani Apparel WOW – The Wonders of Wellbeing program
Inspirational Woman with Attitude and Skills Asanthi Ruwanmani De Silva A novel writer, song writer, poet, critic and swimmer Visually impaired
Inspirational Young Entrepreneur of the Year Harshi Manamendra Founding Director Ishara Ventures Pvt Ltd
Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur (Large) Shea Wickramasinghe Group Managing Director Ceylon Biscuits Limited
Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur (Small) Kirithika Thushyantha Managing Director Techno Brain International Pvt Ltd
Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur (Small) Adhisha Dahanayake Founding  Director Double XL Pvt Ltd
Upcoming Woman Entrepreneur Nayanathara Wimalaguna Kodituwakku Proprietor Tara Watergate Hotel
Upcoming Woman Entrepreneur Pulani Ranasinghe Founder / CEO Loons Lab Pvt Ltd
Social Entrepreneur of the Year Ruchini Liyanage Managing Directress Sunimal’s
Upcoming Woman Entrepreneur Shanthini Ahangama Founder/CEO Coconut Miracle Pvt Ltd
Upcoming Woman Entrepreneur D M Podimanike Proprietor Bhagya Pan Production – Polonnaruwa
Upcoming Woman Entrepreneur G.Sivajothi Proprietor Lakshmi Product – Kalmunai
Professional Role Model of the Year Justice Aisha Shujune Muhammad Justice Supreme Court


Career Achiever of the Year Aishath Jennifer Island Aviation Services Limited Deputy Managing Director
Woman with a Cause Dr Fathimath Nazla Rafeeg Health Protection Agency Medical Officer (Head, Communicable Disease Control)
Inspirational Woman of the Year Maimoona Aboobakuru Health Protection Agency Director General
Climate Action Award Aishath Hudha Ahmed Independent Environment Consultant
Entrepreneur of the Year Abidha Ismail Ali Designer Fabrics



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