On International Women’s Day, we had the honor of hosting a webinar in collaboration with Business Partners International; where we had phenomenal women such as Catherine Igathe, Managing Director and Founder of Ortus Solutions Group, Robyn. T. Emerson, the Founding President of Women In Real Estate, and Patricia Okelo, Founder of Kayana and author of A Candid Handbook for Women Doing Business in Kenya, speak on their respective journeys in business, and discuss how they have managed to thrive and break the glass ceilings in their industries.
It was an eye-opening experience listening to them share the highs and lows of their careers, and I believe the insights they gave are nuggets of wisdom that every woman in business should know, whether they are an entrepreneur or working a 9-5. And I shall share them below.
Negotiate your pay from the jump.
As we all know this year’s IWD theme was “break the bias”, and admittedly one of the most common biases women face is in their pay. Now, while it’s true that women often accept less than they deserve when presented with an offer, it is always with the hope that once they prove their hard work they will be offered more. But sadly, this almost never happens. Which leaves a lot of women feeling overworked and undervalued. So, if you’re reading this and about to make this same move, remember one thing; you are qualified, and they know you are qualified. This is why they are giving you the offer in the first place. Hence, don’t be afraid to negotiate your value from the start and ask for what it is you want!
I’ll keep this one short and sweet, and simply quote Robyn’s words from the webinar, “Do not shy away from putting your foot down and speaking up when you feel your voice and intellect are not being respected”. If you’re in that room and a part of that team, then your opinion counts, and you deserve to be present as decisions are being made. Speaking up doesn’t equal being ‘difficult’, it means you recognize your value.
Uplift the women behind you.
No woman is an island, and I believe that is the reason International Women’s Day exists in the first place. For women to uplift and support each other as they navigate all aspects of life. Often, all women need to succeed is that one person who believes in their competence and decides to open the door for them. Catherine shared that it was this very act of receiving support from a fellow woman, that led to her becoming the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of AIG Kenya. So, as you move up the ladder whether it’s building your business or scaling up incorporate, remember to elevate the women you come across on your journey and help them extend their own ladders.
Never stop learning.
In a world where there is new information being created every day, there is always more for you to learn. It doesn’t matter what field you are in, or whether you are an entrepreneur or employed; be consistent in working to learn something new every day, and in bridging your knowledge gap in the space you are in. In knowing your market, your product/service, and the trends, you will always have an edge over your competitors.
You can have it all,
The catch is, just not all at once. I think it’s very easy for women to get caught up in the madness of trying to be superwoman and end up burning the candle on both ends to the point of misery. Other than the usual delegation and having competent people taking over where you feel you are falling short, Patricia gave a particularly wonderful tidbit that I believe will change how women view the notion of “having it all”. She said one should view wealth in five ways: social capital which is your social interactions with friends and family, cultural capital which is your upbringing and lived experience, intellectual capital, which is your knowledge and area of expertise, money specifically your relationship with it and lastly your spiritual capital which is your internal beliefs and values. Now, to maintain balance and have a healthy, happy life she suggests conducting a self-audit every few months and scoring yourself on these five aspects. In that, you can identify exactly where you are dropping the ball and dedicate time to consciously work on being better and doing better.
You can’t carry everyone’s problems.
Women are nurturers, which is great except that often means taking on loads that are not yours to carry. In doing this, you devote time and resources to problems that sometimes you can’t fix and even when you can, are not yours to fix. Which inevitably leads to burnout and resentment. Don’t get me wrong, It’s great to want to help those around you and be supportive, but you can’t do it for everyone, and neither can you do it every time. You can only show them how to starve off the monkey on their shoulder, but you can’t carry it for them.
You’re allowed to walk away.
Yes, I am aware some deals are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity whether it’s to grow your business or your career, but you deserve to deal with clients who value a healthy work environment. And while you may really need the work, it shouldn’t be at the expense of your physical and mental health. Recognize that what you offer is of value and you deserve to be in an environment that is respectful, affirming, and conducive for work, and yes, clients like that exist.
In conclusion, as we draw to the end of March, I hope we all continue working to break the bias against women in business and create an entrepreneurship space where women grow and thrive. And women, I hope you believe in yourselves and your businesses enough to put your products and services out there. There are so many financing opportunities, products/services, and networks that exist just to help you build and grow your business. All you have to do is take that first step.