How GroFin’s women leaders #breakthebias on International Women’s Day

Confidence and self-belief are two of the most powerful forces women can harness to help overcome gender bias and advance women’s equality, especially in the workplace. This is the advice shared by some of GroFin’s own women leaders as we celebrate International Women’s Day.

Celebrated on 8 March, International Women’s Day marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. This year’s theme, #breakthebias, highlights the importance of actively calling out gender bias, discrimination, and stereotyping:

“Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough, action is needed to level the playing field.”

We asked some of the women holding senior positions in GroFin how they have overcome bias in their careers and what advice they would give to other women to do so.

Vymala Thuron, Program Development Officer at GroFin, says women can break gender stereotypes but believes that confidence is critical to do this.

“As a woman, you need to own your credibility and believe that you can contribute to any conversation. Be confident in yourself and believe that you deserve a seat at the table.” She says women should stay true to themselves and their values. “Stand for your convictions. Push your ideas with diplomacy – but firmly. There will be many times when you are not heard. When this happens, focus on the end goal, and look for a different way to get there.”

Vymala Thuron, Program Development Officer at GroFin

Lizel Channon, Credit Risk Management Executive, says bias against women is often unconsciously perpetuated as women do not always insist on equal or consistent treatment or find it more difficult to negotiate better positions for themselves.

“As women, we also often feel the need to prove ourselves before we touch on subjects such as remuneration. This contributes to the salary gap between men and women in the workplace. Interestingly, research shows that women negotiate more assertively for other individuals, such as their employees, than they do for themselves.”

Lizel Channon, Credit Risk Management Executive at GroFin

She says women also guard against always second-guessing their skills and abilities. “Be bold and confident. You are in a position based on merit. In a senior position, I am fortunate to support and empower the staff in my department and to represent other women in the organisation. I work with my team to build their self-confidence, assertiveness and allow them to develop their potential despite gender and cultural perceptions.”

Rita Odero, Investment Executive: GroFin Kenya, says unconscious gender bias is not uncommon and is often subtle.

“Growing up, it was not unusual to hear certain professions considered to be for a specific gender. I have been fortunate enough to have grown in my career under the leadership of the other gender. GroFin has set exemplary standards when it comes to embracing gender diversity, potential, and ability. I am proud to be the first woman to head up GroFin Kenya since its operations started 15 years ago.”

Rita Odero, Investment Executive: GroFin Kenya

GroFin also strives to accelerate gender equality through our investments in women-owned businesses. GroFin has invested USD 87.2m in over 200 women-owned businesses. Its investees have also sustained over 9000 jobs held by women. “Women bring a different and very important perspective that is needed for a healthy, balanced society and it is our responsibility to ensure that we contribute our experiences and knowledge needed to build a more equal and sustainable future,” Channon concludes.