Friday, January 29, 2010


It’s 12.00am, and I can’t sleep, had a tres’ busy day interviewing international retailers on setting up shop in East Africa, and finding how consumer power drives growth even in what is described as a slow economy.

So, I am tired, very.

I hoped I’d knock off @ 8.30, but when I couldn’t sleep, I put on a borrowed Cashmere Mafia DVD and warmed up on the couch, with a box of chocolate nut truffles, from clicks, my favorite.
But I haven’t been chocolaty for a while, and the truffles, a gift from my colleague Sue, have been untouched for a while, but today, I pulled them off the shelf, and finished just one truffle.

Just One.

One of the episodes on Cashmere Mafia was one about Women climbing up the corporate ladder. On the Cover was the image of a woman about to eat, fork in hand, and a man, on the plate ( shrunk to fit) holding on to dear life.It described how women were throwing men off traditional corporate executive positions.

Here, We live in a different world. Where the CEO’s, COO’s CFO’s and MD positions are a reserve of the men and very few women taking on Executive positions in the Corporate world.

I zeroed in to Nairobi, and the hundreds of interviews I have done since my career began a couple of years ago. The women in Top Management probably do not complete the fingers in my hands if I was hand counting.

We could say that maybe this is Africa.

Earlier today, I was going through Harvard Business Review's "Worlds Top 100 Best performing CEO’s":, and in the Top 10, there was only one woman, the CEO of Ebay.

I am not a feminist, and I am sometimes the last to notice issues on gender balance, but for some reason, a combination of Cashmere Mafia, HBR and a another book, Nice girls don’t get the corner office got me thinking.

It isn’t that women are not qualified, or have no gut for the job. It isn’t the stereotype that women work better in softer jobs. We have the same education, and are socialized in the very same way, so old maid stories don’t augur well into today’s metropolitan minds.

I must admit, there is a drive about ambitious people that captures me, it is their unassuming confidence, and a passion for their work that is so infectious you want to be like them.

I have seen this in men and women alike, but I have found men more self driven to achieve.

I have been lucky and humbled to be in the presence of people who manage top organizations in this country and beyond.

I will Focus on Business leaders and Corporates:

Before and after my interviews, I often try to find out more than the ordinary questions I prepare for; usually a small chat to get settled in; and what I have seen is a sense of pride in what they do, they believe in themselves so much you have no choice but to believe them.

They are great conversationalists, and they know their subject like the back of their hand. They are proud of their work and they give it their all. They wake up early and they sleep late. They work over time without caring if they are getting paid for it. They set a target with colleagues, and when they get home, they set a higher target for themselves.

They work smart. They Play hard.

Ladies, let’s drop the giggles and begin to move on to the corner office.


  1. "They wake up early and they sleep late. They work over time without caring if they are getting paid for it. They set a target with colleagues, and when they get home, they set a higher target for themselves."

    I (can) do that now. But if/when I have a family, then I want to focus on family. The above becomes hard balance, unless, I imagine, I delegate my parental duties to the man, or the maid. None of which I'd prefer. I imagine I'd want to delegate some of my at work, which isn't the way to get the corner office.

  2. Because the corner office has a box with more truffles ;-) ?

  3. @ PKW, actually delegate is one way of getting to the corner office.( Not at home though)! Being a woman, and a mother at that I know that family must come first, but that also means a corner office works just as well, or what is it that drives our work, isnt it to get better returs for our investments, especially if the investment is hard work, time..etc. Those that have made it to the corner ofice make me believe that even with plans for a full family one day, I can begin inching towards it. Striking a balance is an art we must learn.

    Serge..Yes! More truffles, richer chocolate..

  4. I think most societies are patriarchal and that's why it's harder for women to climb up the corporate ladder. There's also the family issue, women are usually mothers and even when they have no children they might nurture aging parents and other relatives. That means that even with drive and ambition it's not as easy to dedicate all the time to getting ahead at work. However, I think things are changing, we are getting more ambitious, pursuing higher education, becoming entrepreneurs etc, there should be more women in leadership positions in future. With the right support it's possible, especially if one has a spouse who is willing to help around the house and the kids.