Carole Wainaina. Chief Operating Officer, Africa50 Infrastructure Fund

Graceful, polished, poised and razor-sharp are the words that first come to mind when you meet Carole. She’s a definite heavy-hitter and it come as no surprise that she's worked in some of the largest organizations in the world. From the UN, Coca-Cola, Philips, PWC and in her current role, it’s easy to see she’s as versatile as they come. It was such an honour to feature her on our shoot this time. Doesn’t she look stunning?!

This year’s theme was “Balance for better. What does this mean to you?

For me, balance is about ensuring that your priorities and values are not compromised as you seek to advance your life or career. I have come to realize that there is no such thing as work-life balance. Work is part of life not in competition with life, so you just need to give it the right amount of time, energy and focus depending on your values and the phase of life you are in.

As an example, I took a career gap of 4 years to have my kids, and then went back to full time employment. Right now, I spend more time focused on my work but my children are in University and require less “hands on time” (but the same amount of love) 😊

Balance is also about caring for yourself and having fun. I consider this just as important as my work.

Finally, balance is about having both men and women in all spheres of life. It is our complementarity that makes the biggest difference in the world.

What is your idea of a power woman?

A power woman, first and foremost, derives power from God and herself. Owning your power is about taking responsibility for who you are, where you are and where you want to go. Its not about blaming others, feeling like a victim or waiting for others to change your situation.

A power woman also has the courage to be authentically herself, fully feminine, and not try to match the worldly view of power or be who others think she should be.

A power woman understands that her uniqueness is her superpower.

Which woman can you think of who makes you wonder: “How does she do it?”

Wangari Maathai has always been one of my role models. Her courage to break the mold and do the right thing, her way, has always inspired me. She took a lot of flack from many sides but kept going.

As a woman who spent many years as a corporate executive, I also admire Indira Nooyi of Pepsico, who was a successful women CEO as well as wife and mother. Knowing what is required of those roles, it was always inspiring to see her both powerful but gracious and seemingly balanced.

What did you dream of doing when you are were a little girl?

I always dreamed of travelling far and wide, seeing the world and meeting many new people. I used to read a lot and dreamed to see all the places I read about.

I read a saying many years ago “the world is like a book, staying in one place, is like reading one page”. I am on page 71 of the book and still going…….

While Kenya will always be home and Africa my beloved continent, the little girl in me, would like to try and read as much of the book as possible - God willing.

What would you do to mentor the next generation of power women?

I have to come to believe that what the world needs most to transform, is an increase in consciousness. Everyone does their best from their level of consciousness. If we all understood better, that our power lies in us and that we can change our reality by shifting our beliefs, we would spend more time working on ourselves rather than blaming other or trying to change our circumstances.

I now spend more time mentoring young women to look inward rather than outward for their growth and fulfillment. Having walked the path myself (and still growing), I can also share my experiences with honesty and vulnerability.

What would you say are the challenges facing women in your sector?

Right now, I am, working in infrastructure development and financing which is a fairly male dominated sector. I can imagine that some women would consider the sector not very “woman friendly” a tough space with long working hours. Many of the stakeholders we interact with on the continent including governments are also mainly male. One needs to be comfortable with that and not feel the need to blend in.

Would you say enough is being done to promote women in the workplace? What are some of the initiatives you like? What more can be done?

It is difficult to say enough is being done when we still don’t have real gender equality in the workplace at all levels. I can, however, say that more is being done than 10 years ago or 10 years before that.

It is heartening to see that many more gender programs go beyond representation – appointing a few women and waiting for them to fail. I see more holistic initiatives that address the creation of environments that support woman to thrive (by the way, they also support men) as well as addressing unconscious biases in the workplace.

I do believe that a big part of achieving gender equality is also about women stepping up and picking themselves rather then waiting to be picked. The rise of successful women entrepreneurs is a great example of this.

What advise would you give to a woman starting out in your industry?

The same advice I would give to women starting in any industry. Pick yourself, Trust yourself and give it a go. Don’t be afraid to ask for help on the way. The worst thing that will happen, regardless of the outcome, is that you will grow.

1 comment

  • Sheila Amani_Ndung’u

    Good evening,
    I purchased the maxi hooded sweater last year, and I love it, but I can’t seem to find them on your page. Will you be restocking them?



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