Fiona Mungai

Managing Director, Endeavor Kenya

 On the strides women have made in their careers so far.

It’s great to see a growing number of women in the corporate C-suite; owning their space and creating positive impact. In Governments, around the world, we are witnessing more women at the fore front of politics. For instance New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Britain’s Theresa May. Not forgetting Ethiopia’s Sahle-Work, closer to home. Though there’s a lot more to be done, the conscious and deliberate effort to empower girls is paying off.

This women’s day, “Balance for better” was the theme. What does this mean to you?

I’ve personally struggled with the ‘balance’ doctrine as it often exposes women to unrealistic pressure that you should have it all at the same time. I have a different perspective…..if you try to balance, you sub-optimize; what I strive for is to learn to give some things up and attempt to construct a combination of things that allows you to excel at what really matters to you in that point. And what matters is not static- you must continuously review and adapt to your current situation. 

Your idea of a power woman is…

A woman who is very authentic and constantly in touch with her inner voice; one who relentlessly pursues her passion and doesn’t settle. It’s hard to achieve this as it comes with a high degree of self-awareness. Oooh and of course going by one of my favorite business icons- Coco Chanel “The most courageous act is to think for yourself. Aloud” There’s nothing as powerful and fabulous as a woman who’s bold and courageous.

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

My mother; who’s been a great influence in my life and a great source of inspiration- who exposed me to the world of entrepreneurship. She juggled the pressures of corporate life, motherhood, academia but what makes it more special is seeing her evolve; through all those phases of her life, which came with a lot of sacrifices. She’s constantly restless and hungry- looking for opportunities to create impact through her work. What’s even more gratifying is being exposed to the lives she’s touched. Since I’m a spitting image of my mum, people often come up to me and say “Wow, you’re her daughter? She did this and that for me”. Due to the nature of her work, she travelled a lot and was away from home, but now I see the bigger picture. Beyond her being a mother to her girls, she was out there broadening her sphere of impact and that fills my heart with joy.

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

I’m a strong believer and beneficiary in the power of a good education; and I’m privileged to have gotten one; having been to Alliance Girls and later to the London School of Economics on a full scholarship. So first, is to encourage and support girls to pursue their education. Second, I have a tribe of mentors for different aspects of my life and I highly recommend it and try to mentor young women in my field of work. It’s important for women to make a conscious effort to have strong mentors around them who can influence them positively; getting guidance from people who’ve been there before and have perspective that you don’t necessarily bear.

What are some of the challenges that women face in your sector.

Not to discount the fact that there are many challenges facing women in the workplace, but one that stands out for me is that one thing women need to do, including myself, is to get out of our own way. We need to believe in our potential and our ability to achieve big things; and stop being detractors and inhibitors of our own growth.

For entrepreneurs specifically, access to capital stands out. Because the investment space it’s a historically male-dominated industry, investors often tend to be inclined to people and situations they can relate to. So, if you’re a woman looking to raise money from an investment team dominated by men, some may have a subconscious bias against your ability to scale your business. Therefore, when you have a woman sitting at the same table, who can counter that mindset, it makes all the difference. And so, for us as women in the investment space, our role is to take up more leadership roles within these organizations and be more supportive of female entrepreneurs.

Advice to a woman looking to join your industry.

Invest in your networks. Be very deliberate about who you surround yourself with-“your tribe” and find the right mentors. Your networks will open doors for you and your mentors will be your guiding star.

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