Why Women Are Better Placed To Lead
Joan Okeyo is incharge of Quality Assurance at Kenya Utalii College. She believes that women have unique traits which they use to make right decisions amid difficulties.
How did you start off your career, and who inspired you? When I was in High School my favorite subject was geography. It was during this subject that I had the chance to dream and “visit” all the famous destinations in the world using the school atlas. I wondered all the time when I would be able to turn my dreams into actual travel. I got hooked to a famous magazine known as “National Geographic”. From it, I learnt a lot about many countries. By the time I completed high school (Form 6), I was ready to travel, both locally and internationally. That informed my decision to pursue the Tour Guiding and Administration course in Kenya Utalii College. I graduated 30 years ago with a Diploma in Tour Guiding and Administration and proceeded to work as a Tour Guide, both locally and in the East African region.
As a female leader, what has been the biggest barrier to growth in your career? Motherhood and family. These are inevitable in a woman’s life. As a tour guide, I was left out of important assignments a number of times because I was either pregnant, or had a sick child. Sometimes, it was outright discrimination. For example, that a mission to track Gorillas in Rwanda needed a man to lead the team (even if the woman in the team was more qualified!)
Do women in your profession have a hard time getting jobs or promotions during the Covid-19 era? In my initial profession (Tour Guiding), it was very hard for women to be hired. For those who had jobs, getting assigned duties was an uphill task. It was alleged that women have too much “excess baggage”. With Covid-19, there are no jobs for tour guides, whether male or female. The tourism industry has taken a slump.
How can women achieve an equal future in a Covid-19 World?
In the recent past, women have made great strides in moving to male dominated territories and breaking the glass ceiling. Amazingly, countries that were led by women managed to bring Covid-19 pandemic under control quickly. I believe that consideration of women for leadership positions will now gain momentum, for their capabilities have been proven.
Any career opportunities for women post Covid-19? Women will still be required to go the extra mile in life. Luckily, we have several examples of women who have crashed the glass ceiling; and shown the world that what a man can do, a woman can do it better, despite demands from family life and work. We must emulate the good example of Vice President Khamala Harris, a family lady and the holder of the second highest office in the USA.
Career advice to young women entering your profession during the Covid-19 world? Covid-19 has shown us that women have the ability to make difficult decisions but with empathy and compassion. Examples abound of women leaders who have succeeded in minimizing the impact of the pandemic in their countries. I thus encourage young women to forge ahead and build their careers. They should believe in themselves, and know that as women, we have unique traits that enable us to make right decisions amid difficult situations.
One recommendation for HR leaders to help promote women in the Covid-19 era at the workplace? HR leaders should know that women leaders are now better placed to lead. They are resilient and are better prepared to steer through unforeseen difficult situations. They are empathetic, compassionate and good listeners. They are thus able to inspire their followers and convince them to make certain sacrifices necessary to achieve desired organizational goals.