NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 4 – Women in Business Network CEO Mary Muthoni has had a successful career spanning from humble jobs such as teaching computer classes for an Sh5,000 salary and teaching secondary students literature to become the first-ever elected female national director on the board of Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
When was the network started and what was the motivation behind it?
We started the initiative as a result of the challenges that we go through when we are doing our businesses and even worse when we are starting. Sometimes it is very tiresome to walk alone but when you walk with different people who have already gone ahead of you, you realize that the challenges are the same. Right now we are over 100, 000 women in this platform.Who do you target through this program?
We target women who are already in business or women who are in other professions and are about to start a business.
What are the biggest challenges women in the business face in Kenya?
Women face a variety of challenges, these last of funds to start and run a business, cultural barriers, such as society’s perception of what a woman should and shouldn’t do and of course bureaucracy.
What should be done to deal with these challenges?
We need capacity building programs because sometimes women need to know what their space is. Sometimes they are only shortchanged because they do not know. There also need to be policies that favor women and for them to formalize their businesses as more money is rolled out to institutions where women can get help.
How was your experience at KNCCI?
I enjoyed serving on the board because I had the zeal, the content to serve in such a place. I am also glad that by the time I left, the constitution had been reviewed to accommodate and be gender-sensitive. It was not easy to penetrate a male-dominated sector unless through favorable policies and laws.
Away from the business network, tell us about yourself?
What advice do you have for women who are finding it difficult to balance work and home?
It is a choice you make as an individual because there is nobody who is too busy for anything or anyone. They can balance if they decide so because there is no employer who wants you 24/7.
What did you study in school and what was your first job?
My undergraduate is in Education, in which I taught English and Literature for 10 years and then I did a master’s in management and Marketing. I have also sat on several boards including the Tobacco control board, where I played a role in banning shisha, I have also sat in the NCCI as the first and only elected woman. Currently, I am sitting in the Kiringa Investment Authority.
If you were to start all over again, what career would you choose?
I will still do business. This is where my heart is. I was called for this. I equally love innovation and being an entrepreneur is what will allow me to play around with my ideas.
What advice would you give to a young woman starting off in her career?
It is safe to start at your level, and do not start at mine. Everyone has their own story. The problem with the young generation today is that they want to start on such a top note. No one ever succeeded by starting from up there. If you are still impactful to yourself, people will still spot you.