We have all heard about iconic women who have fought for various causes and liberties which have led to greater freedoms and improved lives for both men and women. With women empowerment taking shape and more women breaking the glass ceiling, we are witnessing the rise of women in Kenya’s corporate space. Although there is room for improvement, there is definitely some progress and this is a good thing for Kenyan girls who now have role models they can look up to.
Here are Kenyan lionesses paving the way for other girls with big dreams.
Angela Ndambuki, C.E.O, Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry
You probably know her from the all-girls’ group, Tatuu, which rose to fame in the early 2000s. Well, apart from her mellow voice, she is also an accomplished technocrat. Rabbo, as she is popularly known, holds a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Nairobi and a Master’s of Law degree in Intellectual property, and understandably so, from the University of Edinburg. She has previously served as a CEO at the Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) and is also an advocate of the high court of Kenya.
In September, she was appointed as the CEO of Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI), tasked with driving a sustainable business growth. During her appointment, Kiprono Kittony, the organisation’s chairman expressed confidence in her capabilities, given her background in advocacy and in the development of key copyright laws in Kenya and abroad. She is also skilled in the formation of private-public partnerships, which is at the heart of KNCCI.
Angela is definitely an iconic woman who has demonstrated that you can combine your passion and skills to rise to the top of your career.
Elizabeth Marami, First Female Marine Pilot in the Region
Still in her 20s, Elizabeth Marami has accomplished what many people take so long to accomplish. She is the first female marine pilot in the region, having been trained in the marine college in Alexandria, Egypt, for 5 years. At only 25 years of age, she became the first female marine pilot, a job that has traditionally been held by men only. A fashionista in her own right, Liz also runs a fashion blog, proof that you can still pursue your passion alongside a demanding job. She is also a mentor and was on the prestigious list of Business Daily’s Top 40 Under 40 Women in 2015.
Elizabeth has proven that the glass ceiling can be shattered and you can be anything you want to be if you put your heart to it.
3. Sarah Serem, Chairperson of Salaries and Remuneration Commission
Short haired, bespectacled face and a soft-voiced, Sarah Serem is not your picture of a woman who can fight the giants but that is exactly what she does. The chairperson of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, Sarah Serem holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with majors in Sociology and Political Science from the University of Nairobi and a Master’s in Business Administration in Human Resource from the same institution.
Serem was appointed to the position in 2011, with the mandate of stemming the public wage bill in Kenya. Since then, she has run into problems with politicians and other government employees while trying to control the spiralling wage-bill. She is loved and hated in equal measure and her latest fight came when her commission reduced the salaries of elected officials in Kenya. Well, just like before, she has proven not to be a pushover.
Serem is a representation of stealth and grace and she continues to inspire young women who face various challenges in the workplace, political or otherwise.
Emma Nyambura Gichonge, Spearheaded the Migration of M-Pesa Servers to Kenya
You may or may not have heard of her but if you haven’t, then now is your time. Remember when M-Pesa servers were hosted all the way in Germany? Remember the recurrent problems and delays? Well, Safaricom eventually decided to hear the cry of its people and brought the servers home, which improved speed, reduced system downtime, and increased the number of transactions per minute from just 320 to 900. At the heart of this operation was Emma, who led the team of engineers that brought M-Pesa home.
If you think this is not big, think again. M-Pesa has over 18 million users and conducts transactions amounting to 15 billion on a daily basis. Given its importance in the Kenyan economy, the project kicked off in January 2013 and finally ended in 2015, bringing home Kenya’s top innovation. The project also doubled-up as Africa’s largest IT project and after 21 hours of gruelling last-minute finishes, M-Pesa was home, up and running, thanks to the efforts of Ms Emma Nyambura, a trained IT specialist and project manager.
She embodies the spirit of the Kenyan woman, who can get anything done with sheer determination.
Risper Ohaga, Barclays Africa’s Managing Director for Internal Audit
Once upon a time, Kenyan women could not own bank accounts, now they run banks. Risper, a holder of a Bachelor’s degree in commerce from the University of Nairobi and Certified public accountant is the lady who ensures that the internal environment of the bank is sound and strong.
She is an iconic woman who has proven that the glass ceiling only exists if you let it.
While the struggle for more women at the top is not yet won, these iconic Kenyan women have definitely demonstrated that it is possible for women to get the top. We hope that these women inspire you to work hard for your dreams.