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Women and Entrepreneurship

  Mar 9, 2012

By Lucy Kairu

To the graduates of Women In Leadership Learning Series, class of 2012.

Happy International Women’s day to you all lovely ladies. Happy Mother’s Day to you all Mums.

I begin by saluting the 2nd SBS WILLS class as they are special to us in SBS, for being part of the journey SBS is taking in the quest to transform African leaders. These women are also special to us as they graduated as the last SBS class in the ‘old SBS building’; they witnessed the beginning of the journey into our new premises.

I salute all women, alumni of SBS programs since SBS was birthed about 7years ago; and how special this number is as this year we are experiencing the end of the old (old SBS building). And to mothers, your role in mother Africa can never be underestimated, for you have always carried in your hearts hope, that which you have transferred to all your children. And no wonder we are enjoying the world’s limelight tight now, as its last frontier of its economic growth.

In the first edition of its kind in Kenya, Business Daily (a publication of Nation Media Group) in 2011 ran the ‘40 under 40 men’. What I took note of was the percentage of men entrepreneurs, as compared to a feature of its kind over the years for the women. For the men, the top men entrepreneurs featured were 22.3% of the total as compared to 12.7% of the women featured in 2011 and 9.5 % of the women in 2010.

It is for this reason that my eyes took note and my heart missed a bit. This is because it saddens me and leaves me wondering about the woman entrepreneur. Where is she? How comes we have the proverbial Mama mboga yet we don’t see her in the big league?

A study conducted by women professors namely Professor Alice H. Eagly and Associate Professor Linda L. Carli and printed in the Harvard Business, mentioned various factors that are the labyrinth of leadership the corporate woman has to navigate through, on her way to the top. These factors such as prejudice and resistance as well as the obvious family demands to women leadership though brought out by the employed corporate woman, are also experienced by the entrepreneur woman. I dare say that these and a few other unique ones are also part and parcel of the entrepreneur woman who has to make it to the big league. In other words, this being the fact of life, we can only use it as our pedestal as did the frog who’s attempts to jump out of the milk cream made the butter that was the help for his escape.

Ladies (and gentlemen), in listening to the women entrepreneurs on CNN focus on Africa, one thread runs across – the support of their families (read husbands). Are men the ceiling that women need to break through to gain their entrepreneurial independence? If yes, is this not the year (2012) then the women will begin to celebrate their freedom, not because of the damage they have left behind (read battered men), but the corner stones that the leaders in their homes have laid as foundations for them to be the wind beneath their wings as they soar high?

On December 12, 2012 (this year) Kenya will celebrate 50 years since its independence (Jubilee celebrations). In looking forward to this celebrations, women, whose businesses are most vulnerable to vices such as corruption temptations, to hinderances due to their gender, hopefully will experience freedom to dream, visualize and actualize their God-given ability to create, bring to life and nurture their businesses, for the prosperity of Kenya and Africa.

We wish you every success in your endevours to fight not only economic poverty, but also social poverty, and most of all, intellectual poverty, these being the key pillars in our Vision 2030.

I toast to the Women Entrepreneurs this month of March 2012.

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