Business Insider SSA (BISSA): What does International Women's Day mean to you?
Kagure Wamunyu (KW): International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the progress of women, the equality that the ones before us have fought for. From a business perspective, it is a day to celebrate the female leaders of our time who are rising through the ranks in their organisations amidst all the inequality and discrimination. It is the day of the girl child, to show her that she also can be whoever she wants to be!
BISSA: What is it like being a woman leader in a male-dominated industry?
KW: Globally, it is tough being in a position of authority as a woman, especially being in a role that people assume should be for men. This means I have to work a lot harder to gain the respect of the people I work with, and there is absolutely no room for mistakes.
I have also learnt to be very confident and to always be prepared. The best way for any woman to break through walls is to make a significant impact and add value in whatever they do, wherever they go - and that’s something I’ve lived throughout my career.
BISSA: Kenya, like other parts of Africa and the rest of the world, has a clear gender-gap, any ideas on how this can be bridged?
KW: It is the little things. It starts from the home. If my parents had deterred me from entering into the transport industry because of my gender, I would not be here today. We also need more women who are living examples; it empowers other women and sends the message that they can be whoever they want to be.
Also, companies need to be more deliberate about hiring more women in leadership positions. Hire people for skills and not because of their gender. Having more women making key decisions in boardrooms enables a different approach or perspective to how a business is run.
BISSA: Several studies have found that women, unlike their male counterparts, find it difficult to stand up for themselves and ask for more pay or promotion, do you have any advice on how we can change this behaviour?
KW: Whilst valid, I think imposter syndrome is a big scam that has held so many women back from getting - or even asking for - what they deserve. My advice to any woman who is finding difficulty in this area is to not question your presence anymore and learn to think like a non-impostor. However, I must say that I am also witnessing an array of women who are confident enough to speak about their successes and ask for what they deserve.
The real question is when they ask, are they given what they deserve or sidelined? It also goes back to what I was saying earlier, we need more living examples. This is why I encourage having a mentor, no matter what stage in your education or career. In a mentor, you will find someone who has your best interest at heart and who has been where you aspire to be and can guide you with the dos and the don’ts as you progress in your career.
BISSA: Any tips for young women who want to make it like yourself in a male-dominated industry?
KW: Always offer the highest quality service in whatever you find yourself doing. Impact is what people always remember and this is what will have you sitting in boardrooms with the most important people in your field and eventually, the world.
*This interview has been edited for clarity.