With the financial services sector remaining male-dominated, particularly in Africa, we were delighted to host an event in partnership with Ocorian and the United Nations Systems in Mauritius to celebrate and raise awareness of women in finance and leadership in Africa.
There is incredible potential on offer for both African societies and the region’s investment landscape if women are able to access the requisite investment capital and education needed for their businesses to flourish. This point was epitomised by our guest Dr. Mary Okelo, a prominent financial figure in Kenya and pioneer of several major initiatives for the advancement of women on the continent, including the largest micro-finance organisation in Kenya, the Kenya Women Finance Trust, and the successful Makini Schools group.
Welcoming the crowd, Nousrath Bhugeloo, Ocorian’s Head of International Growth for the Africa, Middle East and Asia and Future Females Invest Non-executive Director highlighted, “Conventional wisdom says that women hit a glass ceiling as they advance, preventing them from reaching senior leadership positions. In reality, the biggest obstacle that women face is the first step up to manager, something research from McKinsey and LeanIn.Org in 2019 identifies as the broken rung.”
Dr. Okelo then shared her own inspiring journey, including how she managed to overcome heavy discrimination in the financial sector and then dedicated her efforts to help other women develop their potential. Suggesting ways for women to progress into leadership, she added, “Women should hold ladders for each other to climb up; opening doors for each other by tapping into the power they all have inside.”
Drawing inspiration from Dr. Okelo’s achievements (she became the first female bank manager in Kenya in 1977) and commitment to female empowerment, Director and Founder of Future Females Invest, Aysha Julie said Dr. Okelo’s and many women like her example inspired her to set up her own organisation, “Future Females Invest, whose mission is to challenge the gender gap in access to finance and support women’s entrepreneurial capacity, is greatly inspired by what Dr. Okelo achieved, at a time when barriers were even more difficult to overcome. Women still face barriers in terms of finance, with significantly less female led companies securing investments.”
Commenting on the UN’s participation, UN Resident Coordinator, H.E. Mrs Christine Umotoni, said, “The UN is delighted to partner with Future Females Invest and Ocorian for this women in leadership event with Dr. Okelo. It’s high time we break ground in the financial and business space for women. Future Females Invest is doing this and helping to ensure gender equality whilst empowering women by encouraging investment in female founders.”