Sylvia Mulinge. Chief Customer Officer, Safaricom

On the strides women have made in their careers so far.
Many companies are now realizing that it is important to have leaders that are truly representative of the people that they serve, and they are already reaping the benefits of enhancing the two thirds gender rule within their organizations. Thanks to many brave women, and enlightened men, the world is slowly changing, the direction of travel is right, now we just need to increase the pace.
This year’s women’s day theme was ‘Balance for Better’. What does that mean to you?
‘Balance for Better’ is good for business and is good for the world. Offering equal opportunities to both men and women will create a more balanced world and ensure no one is left behind. Let us be intentional about this and make our world a better place by making room for more women to be heard, and to be in positions where decisions are being made. All our voices and actions will create the change we want to see in this world. So, let’s better the balance, and better the world!
What’s your idea of a ‘power woman’?

A power woman finds purpose in her work, and her work fulfills her purpose. She is authentic and comfortable in her own skin. Through her past mistakes she has learnt how to make better choices. She knows her voice and is unafraid to use it.
What would you say are the challenges women face in your sector?

Women are always held to a higher standard than men, which is very biased. For a man, failure is viewed as an anomaly, while for women it is considered to be the norm. One woman’s failure is equated to the shortcomings of the entire female gender, while for men the issue is either ignored or considered a personal shortcoming of the individual. It is time we held both genders to the same standards of success and failure; and realize that our current approach is contributing to the current lack of gender parity in many facets of life. Fear really holds many women back and prevents them from seeking opportunities, simply because they feel that they are not up to the challenge. Some women also feel intimidated, and lack confidence.

Life is not about survival; it’s about expansion. Life will bring you many opportunities, so be ready to seize the day. Don’t be afraid to grab these opportunities because you think they will be given to men or you are not confident in your capabilities.

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?

Safaricom values the need for diversity and inclusion with a focus on giving equal opportunities to both men and women. As a trendsetter in the corporate space, 34 percent of the senior management at Safaricom comprises of women, and I look for more opportunities for women to thrive in the organization.

I am one of the sponsors of the ‘Safaricom Women In Business’ initiative, and as a company we set a goal to increase the participation of special interest groups such as women-owned and differently-abled suppliers to 10% by 2020. We are deliberately increasing the number of women-owned businesses prequalified to supply us with various products and services.

We need more women to come out and confidently take up leadership positions in various organizations. It is also important for women to form close connections with each other in order to overcome various hurdles that prevent us from advancing in life. A woman alone has power; but collectively, we have impact.

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

Former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher used to say, "If you want anything done, ask a woman. If you believe in yourself, the rest will fall into place. Live the best version of you in the various expressions of your life, learn to forgive yourself when you do not, and just live life one day at a time.

Your ability to be able to step out of your comfort zone and into the unknown, will expand or shrink based on your level of courage. As a woman, you need to be confident in your skin, be comfortable with yourself and never forget that you are enough. Be courageous and dare to seek the opportunities you desire. Identify and make use of your God-given talents to be able to serve the rest of the world.

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