Chamika Ailapperuma is a self-described “High Achiever” and you certainly get that sense of drive when you meet her in person. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Chamika several times at the Women Executive Network’s (WXN) breakfast talks in Ottawa, and was happily surprised to learn that our past guest, Janice McDonald, is her mentor. Chatting with Chamika we came to the topic of the glass ceiling, and how she saw women fitting into the workplace. What she had to say on that subject was fascinating, and a perfect fit for discussion here on our Sister Leadership blog.
But first a little bit about Chamika herself. I’ll let you visit her blog for the bigger picture, but in a snap shot she’s a woman of connection and communication – involved in multiple networking organizations in Ottawa, and Co-Chair of the Ottawa chapter of Canadian Women in Communications and Technology. As a digital professional with strong skills in strategic planning, marketing and communications, Chamika built a government agency’s first-ever web communications team when working for the federal Canadian government. With her considerable government experience, she then worked as a management consultant at two smaller companies in Ottawa on various projects within the Government of Canada. She’s aimed high and learned to compete with the best . . . which is exactly why she’s now on a creative sabbatical as she takes a break from the corporate world for some reflection and studies.
Being a digital professional, Chamika has worked in a world mostly run by men, whether as technical experts or decision makers and knows a thing or two about the glass ceiling. Her recent role as a professional management consultant made her aware about how few women have “broken through” the glass ceiling to reach higher levels within bureaucratic organizations. Those who had “made it” did so at the cost of their health, well-being and sometimes their family. Their continual exposure to an environment of fierce competition within its ranks, the need to prove one’s worth and the fear of appearing vulnerable did not resonate with Chamika’s personal values and beliefs.
Another excellent example of the glass ceiling she shared was during a gala celebrating fifty years of professional management and consulting in Canada. The organization’s highlight video that showcase their mission and history only featured one woman, with no person of visible minority. After watching the video, Chamika turned to fellow attendees and wondered if anybody else noticed the glaring omission. Her inquiry about what she noticed was missing was met with surprise and raised eyebrows, but had she not mentioned it, most of the other attendees wouldn’t have even noticed. This signalled to Chamika how there still remains a lack of perspective and the work to be done in certain sectors to encourage inclusivity and diversity.
As a result of her experiences in different sectors and with different teams on far-reaching transformative organizational projects, Chamika believes the world is ready to receive the message of an evolving, collaborative workplace that celebrates what feminine and masculine energies have to offer. And if the world isn’t ready, it soon will be with active game-changers like her!
To fully appreciate the different insights women bring to the table, Chamika is formalizing her management education through a unique, intensive business program called Management Development for Women, offered through CREWW at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business. The program has been offered since 1992, accepts a limited number of professional women at different stages of their careers and covers all key business functions. The women’s only learning environment is one that Chamika describes as being supportive and open, where women build on each other’s strengths and share personal as well as professional development stories.
Chamika engages other women-focused networking communities such as WXN and Not on the Menu that focuses on supporting visible minorities in business. By championing this feminine approach to business, she is helping to nurture women in business, women in technology, and create that ripple of change in corporate culture. (She didn’t say this to me, but it’s an inevitable impact of this collaborate trend for accelerating women in business.)
Gratitude plays a big role in her ambition. She checks in with herself to see if her work “feels right” and carries that gratitude throughout her day. Working as a digital strategist, she loves connecting with talented people and various communities that champion values based on inclusivity and diversity to allow for success through collaboration. It’s no wonder she loves her work!
With stories like this, it’s no wonder 2014 is poised to be a strong year for women in business. Chamika, we wish you the best as you step back and take a creative break. May the work to come be fulfilling and allow you to not only use your incredible skill set, but grow and strengthen in a way that aligns with your values.
Go get ‘em!
Camille Boivin is founder of Sister Leadership, certified in EQi 2.0 and EQ360, a master practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), has been coaching high-level women and men for over six years, and is now opening her expertise to those emerging in business. Camille pulls her blog topics from her unique coaching approach that combines her training as a EQi 2.0 and EQ360 certified facilitator with the dig-deeper tools of NLP.
Get in touch here if you’d like to talk with Cam about group or one-on-one coaching, and EQ assessments. With the miracle of Skype and telephones – distance is no issue!