Gender Equality, Women Empowerment Are Key
Ms. Kellen Ndii is Co-Founder and Managing Director AFRICA220 E.A LTD. She is also the Vice-Chair, Kenya Utalii College Alumni Association. Ms. Ndii encourages women to equip themselves with technology and through progressive learning, believe in themselves, and surround themselves with positive and like-minded people.
How did you start off your career, and who inspired you? I started my career in 1987 when I joined Kenya Utalii College for Tour and Travel Operations course. My passion all through was to be a secretary because I admired their dressing and articulate moves. However, my family was opposed to it. In form six, I missed the university mark but this was rather intentional, because I deliberately relaxed in my studies to avoid going to the National Youth Services; which was then a prerequisite to join university. I would not imagine myself waking up in the morning to run and face other construed hardships.
Unlike today, we were at that time not exposed to many careers and so our choices were limited. A suggestion from family was floated to me, to join Kenya Utalii College. I took it with no hesitation because I also admired the hospitality at the Utalii Hotel when we occasionally visited. However, I had no much clue on the course expectations, but my mentor knew my strength in public relations and interest of interacting with people; thereby recommended the particular course. My father inspired me and I admire everything about him to-date.
As a female leader, what has been the biggest barrier to growth in your career? I did not have many barriers in my career growth because Kenya Utalii College prepared me very well. The fact that I also worked in different departments helped me understand the business better. At the same time, I did not change employers many times; and that is why I do not agree when ladies tell me that one must move from one employer to another in order to climb the ladder.
I started my career as a trainee in a multinational company, the African Tours and Hotels. I later left for an international corporate company (Private Safaris-KUONI), where I held different senior positions; until I resigned in 2016, to start and manage AFRICA220 E.A LTD, which is co-owned. I felt I needed bigger challenges and even though the industry has been hard hit, time and again, I have no regrets.
I have had very good family support and in addition, I like surrounding myself with positive thinkers. In my growth path, I had very supportive bosses who believed in me and my work. In my firm, I consider staff my main asset; laying a burden in me to treasure and mentor them. I am proud to see those who have left my company, in high positions both in the Government and private sectors.
My challenge while in employment was that in several foreign owned corporate, employees climb only to a certain level then stagnate because certain positions are reserved for expatriates.
Do women in your profession have a hard time getting jobs or promotions during the Covid-19 era? I do not think this is only for women, it cuts across board. Women need to believe in themselves. It might be more of age, experience, and exposure than gender.
How can women achieve an equal future in a Covid-19 World? Women need to be ahead in technology; that is the future of our industry locally and globally. Women also need to equip themselves, believe in themselves, and fight for equal rights and representation.
Any career opportunities for women post Covid-19? Gender equality and women’s empowerment are essential components of human development and basic human rights. The advancement of women’s rights and the education of girls are critical preconditions for effective and sustainable development of companies. The opportunities are there but women need to equip themselves with technology and progressive learning.
Career advice to young women entering your profession during the Covid-19 world? They must be resilient and open-minded. Competition is stiff, and they must not wait for goodies to be given to them on a silver plate. People with different life experiences help organizations see the big picture and make better decisions. Those life experiences combined with your formal education and your career allows you to solve problems; and women have proven to be good at this. Goons have invaded the industry and therefore, one must remain focused and uphold integrity which is key. I would also advise young girls to join women organizations such as, KAWT/She trades/WITIA and other professional bodies like TPA, etc.
One recommendation for HR leaders to help promote women in the Covid-19 era at the workplace? To give the girl child a chance in their institutions. From my experiences, girls are excellent performers and, in most cases, better /equal to men. They are also reliable, and they calculate every move they make. What a man can do, a woman can do and even do it better. Employers need to recognize that gender equality and women’s empowerment are important for sustainable development and our common future. They need to reaffirm their commitments and ensure that women’s equal rights, access to opportunities, participation, leadership, decision-making, as well as promotions are adhered to.