Emerging Business Leaders // 13 Trailblazing Women You Should Know About
Women have continued to succeed in rising the corporate ranks. A few of the world’s most influential companies now have a female CEO at the helm.
A common trait shared by many of these Women continue to break glass ceilings in what remain male-dominated fields or organizations. It is their determination & dedication to their vision that helps them overcome many challenges to achieve their goals.
Today we highlight a list of emerging business leaders, made up of trailblazing Women in Kenya. Together they have recently ascended to leadership, launched innovations, bagged global accolades, & spearheaded initiatives in job or knowledge creation.
Chebet Lesan is one of the emerging business leaders to watch. She was among the 10 finalists of Africa’s Business Heroes, and emerged the winner, beating 22,000 other Africans, bagging 33M, and mentorship from the Foundation. The competition is organized by Jack Ma Foundation & is its flagship philanthropic endeavors in Africa to identify, and recognize the continent’s top entrepreneurs.
Lesan is the founder of Karen based BrightGreen Renewable Energy, which has taken considerable strides towards environmental conservation. It plays a huge part in ensuring that deforestation does not continue to plague natural resources.
The company creates life-saving fuel bricks that reduce the cost of cooking. Lesan has taken up the mantle in sustainably revolutionizing kitchens across Africa.
Chebet is an Industrial Design graduate from the University of Nairobi is a fellow at Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. In addition, her work has also been recognized by Queen Elizabeth II as she received the Queen’s Young Leaders Award 2017.
Rebecca was the first Woman at the helm of KENGEN, when she was appointed in 2017. While this was a few years ago, the reason she is on our emerging business leaders list is because recently joined the World Bank Group’s Advisory Council on Gender, and Development. In her role she is tasked with looking into progress and constraints to gender equality globally and providing feedback and guidance of the bank’s work on gender equality and women’s voice.
She holds a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Nairobi, as well as a Masters in Comparative Law from the University of Australia. In 2010, President Mwai Kibaki awarded her the Order of the Grand Warrior (OGW) of Kenya.
Pauline Kiraithe is the Founder and CEO of Talentgurus, and is passionate about helping people become the best versions of themselves.
She has developed the Ignite Youth Leadership Program, and Ascend Corporate Self Leadership Program. Through the programs, over 1200 Individuals have been coached directly and over 20,000 lives impacted indirectly.
Over her career journey, Pauline has developed the Media Lab and Scribes Inc programs that developed over 200 award winning journalists across the East African Region. She is also our member at our Kilimani location.
Linda Bonyo is a 2020 Tech Women Emerging Leaders Fellow, and winner of the 2020 GoodID global awards on Privacy and Digital Identity.
She founded the Lawyers Hub in 2017. It is the first legal tech hub in Africa to support tech startups and cross disciplinary collaboration in Law and Technology. It brings together a Pan-African community of lawyers working to employ Technology to ease access to Justice for tech startups. Lawyers Hub seeks to improve digital skills for the legal sector, while offering policy alternatives within the Tech Policy Arena to African governments.
The organization has convened the Inaugural Africa Law Tech Festival comprising a LawTech Academy, Africa Legal Hackathon, Africa Digital Rights Concert and Africa Policy Co-Creation Conference bringing 20+ African Countries, and over 1000+ unique attendees in 2020 alone.
It recently launched the Africa Law Tech Association with Mozilla Foundation as founding member to amplify African Voices within the continent.
Linda is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and serves in the ICT committees of the regional bar associations such as the Pan -African Lawyers Union and the East Africa Law Society.
Of interest is the company’s Hemafuse Device that was recently introduced in a number of Hospitals in Kenya helping save lives through preventing excessive blood loss. Sisu Global was among 6 companies honored at Patents for Humanity virtual award ceremony.
Carolyn has raised over $3M from investors like Camden Partners & Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund. Carolyn has been featured in USA Today, Forbes Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, TEDxMidAtlantic, and has received awards like Forbes 30 Under 30 in Healthcare, Maryland’s Innovator of the Year, Baltimore Business Journal Tech 10, and Baltimore’s Top 10 BioHealth CEOs.
Prior to Sisu, Carolyn founded a medical device non-profit working with rural mobile clinics in India. She raised over $100k in cash and in-kind services and was featured in Entrepreneur Magazine and Business Insider. While she was earning her Chemical Engineering degree at the University of Michigan, Carolyn was named Entrepreneur of the Year for her 1st company. Definitely one of the emerging business leaders to watch.
At only 26 years, Jihani Abbas is a trail-blazer in the insurance sector, having set-up Kenya’s first Digital Insurance company called Griffin Insurance. The Digital Insurance platform lets customers pay their insurance in installments and pause coverage if they travel abroad. Griffin also helps process claims in a week rather than the industry standard of 30 days.
In addition to the app, Abass has another company, Lami, that sells the technology platform used to build Griffin so other businesses can use it to create their own digital insurance products. In 2019, Lami raised half a million dollars in seed funding. Innovation is an attribute applauded in our emerging business leaders list.
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” ~ Ruth Bader-Ginsburg
Cynthia Wandia is the Co-Founding CEO of Kwara, an accounting and business management SaaS for SACCOs in Kenya. Kwara was recently shortlisted for the 2nd Wimbart Office Hours cohort.
She concurrently serves as the Managing Director of ASTRA Innovations, a German-based enterprise that she co-founded. In 2018, Business Daily Africa, named Cynthia Wandia, one of the Kenya Top 40 Under 40 Women. Her company Kwara is a Nairobi Garage member.
Earlier in the year, Microsoft appointed Kendi Ntwiga-Nderitu as the Country Manager for its operations in Kenya. Prior to joining Microsoft, Kendi served as the General Manager of the East, West and Central Africa Cluster for Check Point Software.
One of the reasons, among many, that Kendi makes it to our emerging business leaders list is because of She-Goes-Tech. It is an initiative created with the purpose of mentoring young girls and women who are pursuing STEM careers. Her dedication to mentoring women in the tech space has also seen her lead gender inclusion discussions across different forums, including the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Passionate about the potential of technology to streamline trade and commerce on the continent, Kendi has proved instrumental in helping various organizations develop strategic digital roadmaps, ultimately enabling them to improve efficiencies and reduce costs. In fact, it’s this same passion that led to her being recognized as an Emerging Leader in Innovation and Entrepreneurship by the US government through the TechWomen program.
She has also served as a leader extensively in some Global Tech companies including Oracle, HP and Intel, where she was tasked with leading and implementing business strategies across sub-Saharan Africa.
Agnes Gathaiya is the Country Director for East Africa at Google. She is responsible for managing regional Google operations, developing and executing growth and innovation, and building and managing strategic partnerships.
She has 20+ years of progressive experience in organizational transformation, predominantly focused on developing strategy and providing commercial leadership in sales, and business development.
Agnes has held leadership positions in organizations including Deloitte Consulting, SAP, Safaricom, and most recently served as CEO of Integrated Payment Services Limited (IPSL). She also sits on the Boards of United Way – Kenya, African Women in Fintech and Payments, and the Payments Association of Kenya.
She has also completed the Harvard University Women in Leadership program and was recognized in 2010 by Business Daily as one of the Top 40 Under 40 Women in the country, and today she graces our emerging business leaders list. We are happy to have her on this list of emerging business leaders.
Helinna has been in the forefront for some time now championing educational programs centered around African youths to adopt and hone their skills. She is the co- founder of Yale Young African Scholars which allows young African students the opportunities to access university level education in other countries and continents.
Caroline Mukiira is the Regional General Manager for IBM East Africa responsible for IBM Sales, Marketing, Services, and Global Delivery Operations across 8 countries. Before this appointment, Caroline led the IBM TradeLens Blockchain business for Middle East and Africa across 70 countries.
Prior to joining IBM, Caroline was based in Manhattan, New York, working for Accenture. At Accenture, she held several leadership roles, including a Global leadership role within Accenture’s Financial Services Sector. She was instrumental in shaping the five-year strategy for Accenture’s Insurance vertical to become a 2.5 Billion (USD) Industry. Her global achievement make her a shoe in for our emerging business leaders list.
Nanjira ranks highly as one of the emerging business leaders. She was named one of New African Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Africans in 2016, and BBC’s 100 Inspiring and Influential Women in 2019.
She led policy advocacy to promote digital equality in access to, and use of the web at the World Wide Web Foundation (2016-2020). Nanjira also managed the Foundation’s Women’s Rights Online work. She previously worked at iHub in Nairobi, where she provided strategic guidance for growth of technology innovation research in the East Africa region.
Nanjira served as a panel member on the United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation (2018-2019). She was a member of DFID’s Digital Advisory Panel (2017-2019), as well as a trustee at UK Citizens Online Democracy (mySociety) (2016-2019). Nanjira also served as a deputy on the United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Panel for Women’s Economic Empowerment (2016-2017).
Esther assumed her role of General Manager for Metta Nairobi mid 2020. As one of the emerging business leaders, she is at the front of championing for Mettā, the value for members and the ecosystem. Under her leadership, Mettā recently formed a partnership with Nairobi Garage.
A first in the ecosystem, the partnership gives both Mettā and Nairobi Garage members total flexibility when it comes to the office space they need, as well as offering a range of add-on business development, collaboration, and networking opportunities.
Prior to working with Mettā, Esther spent two years heading up partnerships and programs in an international leading creative institute, the Africa Digital Media Institute. Her interest in investments also led her to working for a real-estate investment and advisory firm, Scion Real, helping raise funds for different organizations across the country.
She has also briefly worked with the Government of Kenya for different ministries on a volunteer basis. Esther is currently the Youth Representative for Kenya under AfCoP – an initiative run and under Africa Development Bank (AfDB).
We will continue to watch different sectors, & spheres of influence to see who else we can celebrate in other emerging business leaders lists. We hope the ladies on here inspire you to be one of them.