Posted on October 2, 2018 · Posted in Education, Leadership

Project management can be tricky at the best of times, but when your team is up against something bigger than them, it can make things even more difficult. There is one woman in Kenya who is using a straight-forward concept to inspire not just her team, but numerous women in Kenya and beyond.

Life for women in Kenya is not without its challenges. Restrictive access to education, limited property rights, and underrepresentation in the workplace are just some of the problems woman continue to encounter on a daily basis in 2018.

This is not say there have not been concerted efforts from Kenyan authorities to address the gender imbalance. The unveiling of an ambitious and inclusive constitution in 2010 marked the beginning of a new era of gender equality in Kenya. But nearly 8 years on, progress has been slow, with the government falling short of their own minimum requirements and quotas in the National Assembly and Senate.

But rather than feel disenfranchised and disengaged with the political process, Kenyans are standing up to be counted as they actively look to redefine gender relations within their country.

Catalyst for Change

One such torchbearer for the movement is the businesswoman turned “leadership influencer and change catalyst” Patricia Murugami. Identifying major obstacles women face in their careers was the focus of her doctoral research. Her ground-breaking research concluded that some of the largest impediments facing women was their institutionalized exclusion and she considered whether these obstacles could be successfully turned into potential catalysts for positive change. To achieve this change, Patricia devised a formula which she believes simplifies the complexities of life into actionable and straight-forward steps which will enable women make small but consistent positive changes.

Patricia’s introduction to these obstacles began when early in her career she was working as an auditor in the male-dominated finance sector. It was here she became all too aware that the female members of staff were routinely being overlooked for progression and were largely underappreciated.

Beginning at the University of Nairobi, Patricia earned an MBA in Strategy and Marketing before completing a DBA at the International School of Management in Paris. She then went for another DBA at Strathmore Business School, juggling her studies with positions as Advisor to the Dean, Certified Transformational Executive Coach, and a member of the faculty.

It was that early experience working in finance in 2009 which drove her to the decision to single-handedly launch 15 leadership programs designed to inspire and elevate women in their professional and personal lives. Together with the support of her able team, she sought collaborations and customized programs with globally accredited business schools and large corporates including the telecoms company Safaricom and Strathmore Business School. The most noted of which is the Women in Leadership program, which is held in 4 locations annually; twice in Nairobi and once each in Kampala, Kigali and Dar Es Salaam.

Helping Disadvantaged Men and Women

Murugami focuses on helping disadvantaged women especially, through support and mentoring, instilling the lesson that progression can be sought through “lifting each other up.” Whilst Patricia is focused on the empowerment of professional women in the professional arena, it is not uncommon for her to throw open the doors of her programs to men, having welcomed male leaders onto her Board Readiness program for the first time this year. This was an important step as Patricia explains “we opened it up to male leaders as we want to be more inclusive and enable more boards to be constituted with a diverse range of directors. This will lead to more proactive and progressively sustainable organizations.”

Unlike similar research that preceded her own, Murugami’s stands out because of the formulaic framework she devised, which effectively simplifies all the complexities of life into actionable and straightforward steps. Once such step is to conquer and manage fear by accepting it as part of human experience. Upon acknowledgment of this Patricia revealed that they are then asked “what would you do if you were not afraid? Then do it proactively and without question.”

Another key step is for participants to raise at least 10 other young women and men to leadership in their companies and community through their example, mentoring, coaching and story-telling. The idea of this Patricia explains is “to increase the leadership circle, break silo effects and enable others to learn from their own experiences and personal wisdom’. The results of which enable women, and men for that matter, make small but significant steps forward in making positive changes in their lives. Notably, mentorship circles like the one at Breakthrough Consulting Solutions have created “ripple effects” that have resonated with this generation’s leaders through the development of a safe and high impact leadership atmosphere, changing the culture of their organizations.

Chloe Hashemi is part of the marketing team at ISM. She enjoys writing about everything from women in business, project management and leadership, to technology in business. 

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