Rebecca Munyuki is the performance Marketing Leader for IBM Security and Commerce Solutions- Middle East & Africa region at IBM. As part of our special series on Women Achievers from Africa, this is an insightful conversation between Rebecca and Divya Mody on entrepreneurship, feminism and what drives women at work.
Why do you believe in championing women?
My favourite quote underpins the reasons I strongly believe in championing women.
“We rise by lifting others.” ~ Robert Ingersoll
I stretched myself because the women and men who were my role models believed in me, they spoke on my behalf in meetings and recommend me for challenging projects. I know that this increased my confidence level and because this helped me and continues to, I intentionally do the same for others.
How has the journey been so far?
The journey of my life and career has had highs and lows but I think through it all I had many incredible lessons learned! I am looking forward to my future because I have bigger and bolder dreams , this journey is filled with adventure!
What would you pick as your key milestones?
Key milestones have been each time I had to shift careers and life moments . One that comes to mind was a week after moving into a new position my personal life was started facing challenges. Juggling life and work became the most trying of times. But I was determined to find a way to come out on top. I can say when someone bet that during that time I was not going to last in that position, I actually lasted 3 years before I took on my next challenge.
Parts of Africa are known to be very progressive for women, and others, very regressive – how do you put these together for building the continent’s perception?
The African continent has many untold stories of women who are making a difference in their communities. Some stories in history have increadible progressive women who were brave leaders. As our continent is on a journey of developing in many areas we can improve the perception by sharing more stories about the progressive women in Africa and when dealing with the regressive stories let’s find solutions so those stories may have a better ending.
The African continent has many untold stories of women who are making a difference in their communities.
What kind of support have you seen in your journey towards empowering women?
Women empowering other women is something that I live! I found healthy and safe support systems around the women close to me, I was able to ask for career and personal advice. Women network groups are a fantastic platform where I to found mentors and sponsors and for my career journey . Now as an entrepreneur I have found business networks that have opened doors for me.
Feminism to you is…
A movement. It’s saying women and men are different but women are definitely not inferior…women matter.
What do you believe is common to women of emerging countries?
Women in emerging countries I personally have observed is a determination and resilience to keep moving forward with their dreams for themselves and their families. I have seen old women in their seventies still showing up for work in the fields or someone’s house just to keep their grandchildren’s dream for basic education alive. The parents have died from HIV and lack of decent health care. Then there is a well dressed woman in business who is showing up to work because she has her family and extended family including siblings who are dependent on her to help take care of their needs. Ultimately with the common hope of teaching them to fish so that one day they can stand on their own.
What would be your advice be to your younger self?
My advice to my younger self would be don’t shrink back for anyone , be comfortable and embrace your success. I used to be a people pleaser. So if I noticed that my small success made someone uncomfortable then I would quickly run behind the curtain software life’s stage and mute my voice.
Which qualities of women leaders are attributed to their success?
Women have the capacity to birth …women leaders can birth dreams and innovative ideas .Women have the ability to nature others some of the leaders in respected i saw them actively sowing into, cultivating and watering the relationships which in turn served them well when they needed to.
women leaders can birth dreams and innovative ideas
How important is it to have the support and guidance of mentors? How can one seek mentor-ship?
Mentorship is so important it gives individuals and safe space to share ideas and try out solutions, rehearse for tough discussions, to discuss your view points and get input from a different perspective. Mentors do not have all the answers but they can help point the Mentee in the right direction as well .
Seeking a mentor can be tricky because the person who you might want to be mentored by could be too busy to make time for you.
1. Get to know a bit about the mentor – Where possible I always advise people to first observe the individual whom they want to be mentored by in a job shadowing , speed mentoring , ask around about the type of leader they are or set up a one on one meeting before asking them to mentor you.
2. Be open minded I have found that the best mentors were people who were opposite of me..so never right off potential mentors who may not seem to be your obvious choice. Remember it’s about your personal growth and development.
Once you find a mentor agree with them on the topics where you need mentoring , agree on the frequency of sessions and the objectives and results you want to achieve by the target end dates and wether it’s a formal or informal mentoring.