March 8 marks International Women’s Day (IWD). It is no secret that one day isn’t nearly enough to celebrate this profound gender. That is why Business Today has dedicated a week to celebrate women by giving you content on how they have remarkably changed the game in different sectors such as entrepreneurship, the media and the corporate world. In addition, this series arms the woman with tips on successfully thriving in the business world.
According to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2020 study, women make up 48% of entry-level employees, but only 38% of managers, 34% of senior managers or directors, 29% of VPs, 23% of SVPs, and just 22% of C-suite executives.
We kick off with our top 15 list of African women in the Corporate world. These women have torn down gender bias in the workplace by taking up SHE-EO (CEO), founders, head officers, and managerial seats in some of the continent’s leading organizations. They have also exhibited honorary excellence in their education and complementary pursuits.
- Olusola “Sola” Adejoke David-Borha – CEO Standard Bank Group.
Sola is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Africa Regions at the Standard Bank Group since 2017. When Peterside launched IBTC Chartered Bank, David-Borha joined at the start. This, she recalls, changed everything: “In IBTC, we actually had women in senior positions, so we were an outlier to the industry.”
When IBTC and Standard Bank’s Stanbic Bank Nigeria merged, the path was open. David-Borha was eventually made CEO at Stanbic IBTC, working at the position from 2012 to 2017. She is on the Board of Directors at Coca-Cola HBC AG.
Her professional excellence was preceded by studies at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, earning a Bachelors degree in economics. She is also the holder of an MBA from the Manchester Business School and Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School and the Global CEO Program jointly offered by Wharton, IESE and CEIBS.
2.Pauline Masese – Group PR Associate and PR Kenya at Jumia Group
Named among the Top 25 Women in Digital, Pauline has made major strides in the marketing sector with giant e-commerce store Jumia as Group PR Associate and PR Kenya at Jumia Group since March 2020. She was previously the PR and Communications Manager at Jumia Kenya. Pauline is a young female corporate dignitary, setting her mark by overseeing a PR associates team spanning 12 African countries.
Before joining Jumia, she enjoyed stints as the PR manager at MIH Internet Africa and Senior Account Manager at Nuturn Ltd.
3.Kendi Ntwiga – Country Manager, Microsoft
Roles at renowned technology companies HP, Oracle, Paynet, Software Technologies Ltd preceded Kendi’s appointment as Microsoft’s Country Lead in January 2020. Kendi is responsible for delivering the organization’s mission in Kenya and supporting the wider East Africa operations at Microsoft. Kendi has demonstrated her expertise in the tech realm as a woman in the corporate world.
4.Raby Gueye – CEO & Founder, Tech for Senegal
Raby is the founder and CEO of Tech For Senegal, that seeks to tackle educational inequity in Senegal by recruiting and training leaders who are locally rooted to teach in underserved communities. Having experienced inequity firsthand in her early childhood, Raby aims to change children’s lives irrespective of their socioeconomic status. She became the first in her family to attend school when she relocated to the U.S.
She is a pioneer for gender equality, having researched gender violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo during her time at Arizona State University.
Raby was featured in the 30 under 30 2021 Forbes list for social impact following her work at Tech for Senegal.
5. Carolyne Kendi – Head Of Brand Marketing, Safaricom PLC
Carolyne’s 13 plus years of experience in multiple African Markets representing key industry players such as Unilever and East African Breweries Limited (EABL) landed her a position as Head Of Brand Marketing at Kenya’s largest Telco Safaricom PLC in 2018. She is a force to reckon with, specializing in Marketing Strategy Development & Implementation, Communication mix development, Social marketing, Brand & Product Management.
Defining her qualities as a successful female marketer, Carolyne states: “I am a leader who is extremely passionate about driving positive impact in all I do. I am a self-driven, passionate team player who is inspired by bringing people together to leverage their strengths to deliver positive outcomes.”
6. Gloria Michelle Otieno – Founder, Recours Four Kenya
Gloria is the founder of Recours Four Kenya, a human resource consultancy firm. Over 10 years experience in the sector has armed Gloria with HR Consultancy, Talent Acquisition, Workplace Diversity, and Corporate Governance expertise.
Recours Four Kenya-on its way to celebrating its 10-year mark- was reported to have an annual turnover of over $400,000 (Kshs 40,000,000) in 2018.
Gloria quit her Job at Kenya airways, citing dissatisfaction. This and her father’s successful business inspired the birth of her now booming human resources and skill development company.
Gloria earned the Business Excellence Award Certificate from the World Confederation of Business in the USA and was mentioned in Forbes Africa among Top 30 Entrepreneurs under 35 to look out for in Africa.
7.Rebecca Miano – Managing Director & CEO at KenGen
Miano became the first woman who took the Managing Director & CEO’s seat at Kenya Electricity Generating Company PLC (KenGen) in August 2017. She joined the power producer in 1998 and has worked in various roles, including a senior legal officer, assistant company secretary, legal affairs director, and corporate governance.
She is one of few women CEOs at the helm of listed companies in Kenya.
KENGEN renewed her 3-year contract at the close of 2020. Board chairman Joshua Choge said the decision was taken after a “rigorous evaluation process” and her “exemplary performance” at the helm of the power producer.
“During Miano’s first tenure, the company has continued on an upward growth trajectory, consistently reporting good corporate financial performance despite a difficult operating environment that has affected many other businesses globally,” he said in a statement.
8. Phylis Wakiaga – CEO, Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM)
In 2007, she began her career at Kenya Airways (KQ) as a Customer Relations Executive, a position she held for three years. She was then appointed coordinator of government and industry affairs at KQ. Later, she became the manager of the Government and Industry Affairs Division at the airline.
In 2013, she left KQ and joined the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) as the head of policy in charge of research and advocacy. In 2015, she was appointed as Chief Executive Officer at KAM.
She describes her leadership style as “adaptive and situational”. She emphasizes being a “team player” as vital to her success. “Success requires a collective effort,” Wakiaga notes.
9. Jennifer Riria – CEO, Kenyan Women Holding Group
Jennifer is the champion leader of women as the CEO of Kenya Women Holding Group. Kenya’s largest micro-finance provider works with over 900,00 women, as well as many leading civil rights organizations. She is passionate about transforming the lives of women and their families in Kenya. Riria has served on the boards of Kenyan and international organizations, including at the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE), being the first female to serve in that capacity.
In addition, she was awarded “Champion of Democracy” by the Ford Foundation in 2012 for her role as a leader of the TUVUKE Initiative, a country-wide project pushing for peace and inclusion in Kenya.
10.Flora Mutahi – Founder, CEO Melvins Tea
Flora Mutahi is the founder of Melvin Marsh International, the brand under which she launched Kenya’s first flavoured tea. Founded on a passion for the finest tea, Flora Mutahi has focused primarily on building a world-class company with several strong Melvin’s brands.
In a display of women supporting women, Mutahi borrowed money from her mother to qualify for a bank loan. She first ventured into manufacturing salt. Later she started her tea business.
She was elected vice-chairperson of the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). Mutahi is also a member of the board of directors of Seed Hope, a Kenyan non-profit striving to improve the living conditions in Kibera.
11.Jane Karuku – Group Managing Director and CEO, East African Breweries Limited
From the managing director’s role at Kenya Breweries Limited (EABL) since 2015, Jane took over as CEO at East African Breweries Limited (EABL) in December 2020. However, Jane was no stranger to EABL, having been a board member since 2013.
She oversaw the strategic and operational transformation of the KBL business during her time at one of the largest manufacturing operations in East & Central Africa.
Jane was instrumental in improving the company’s market efficiency, cost optimisation, the launch of a strong innovations pipeline, talent development, and its reputation among its stakeholders.
12.Rita Kavashe – CEO, Isuzu Motors East Africa Limited
Rita is the Managing director and CEO of the largest automotive assembler in East Africa, Isuzu Motors East Africa Limited. She oversees the business operations of Isuzu Motors since 2017. She previously held the title of Managing Director and Sub-Saharan Africa Export Director in South Africa.
She is currently the Chairperson of the Kenya Roads Board and the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA). She serves as a Member of the Kenya Vision 2030 Delivery Board and Bamburi Cement, a listed firm on the Nairobi Securities Exchange.
Rita is also a member of the Board of Boma Panafrican Limited and the University of Eldoret Endowment Trust Board of Trustees.
13. Agnes Gathaiya – Country Director East Africa, Google
Agnes is a business transformation leader with over 24 years of experience in commercial leadership. She was appointed Country Director East Africa at Google in August 2020. Agnes bears previous professional experience from Safaricom as the Head of Enterprise sales SME, Channel and Regional Operations and General Manager at Chase Bank Limited.
At Google, She is responsible for managing regional Google operations, developing and executing growth and innovation, and building and managing strategic partnerships.
Agnes holds a Master’s in Business Administration from United States International University (USIU) and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Bryn Mawr College, USA. She has also completed the Harvard University Women in Leadership program and was recognized in 2010 by Business Daily as one of the Top 40 Under 40 Women.
14.Njeri Rionge – Founder, Wananchi Online
Njeri is the founder of Wananchi Online, transformed to Wananchi Group Holdings, one of east Africa’s leading pay-tv, broadband internet and VoIP services. She is one of Africa’s leading entrepreneurs and one of the very few women pioneers in the ICT sector on the African continent.
In 2011, Forbes titled Njeri as Africa’s Most Successful Woman.
Rionge started her first company as a twenty-year-old selling yoghurt to the International School of Kenya and Loretto Convent Musongari High School. Since then, she’s co-founded multi-million dollar companies and and performed the role of director, board member, commercial officer.
She currently holds the CEO title at the UpCountry Africa Fund Assets Corp.
15.Carole Karuga – CEO, Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA)
A wealth of experience in leadership in Barclays Bank of Kenya, Nairobi Chapel and Sagamore Institute for Public Policy Research, Indianapolis led up to Carole’s CEO position as the chief executive officer of Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), an industry group that represents and lobbies on behalf of Kenyan businesses and industries.
She is a member of several professional bodies and boards such as the Growth-Oriented Women Enterprises Kenya Program (GOWE) and Harvard University Center for African Studies, Africa Advisory Board, USA.
Carole was announced as one of the Top 100 Women CEOs in Africa, by Reset Global People in 2019 and Global Female Leadership Impact Award and Induction into the Global Women Leaders Hall of Fame (GWLHOF).