Put your hand up and suggest that women discuss the issues about being a woman. Do not be surprised if the response you get is a list of challenges they face everyday. Go on a web search and look for “Women”; do not be surprised if your search results focus on all the bad things that women have to face daily. True, women have a lot to deal with, but not all of it is bad. Some of it has to do with adjusting to success, balancing work with family, and reaching out for a place in the leadership ranks in business, in society and in politics.
Storymoja came up with the Women in Leadership (WIL) series of seminars in the hope of providing a platform for women to discuss how they can improve themselves at work, at home, and in society at large. Also, the aim is for women to get inspired and get advice from other women who have made it in their fields. Such a session of the WIL series was held at the Storymoja Nyamachoma Fiesta. The session was divided into three parts:
- Work-life balance
- What do women want?
These sessions featured moderators and facilitators including Ivy Mwai, Irene Kinuthia, Betty Wamalwa and Muthoni Garland.
Speaker: Ivy Mwai
Organization: African Leadership Academy- Johannesburg
Ivy posed the question “Who is a mentor?” The participants had several ideas. One guest suggested that a mentor is ‘Someone who has been there and done that and wants to share it with others.’ It was noted that it is valuable to have a mentor, especially for guidance, as a role model, and for professional consultations.
How do you find a mentor?
Ivy outlined 15 steps to help you find the right mentor. It is importance to explore your network of relatives, friends, professional associations and networking groups. He or she must be someone you admire and respect.
15 Steps to Find the Right Mentor
1. Define a list of your top goals for the mentoring relationship.
2. Brainstorm a list of prospective mentors.
3. Research available information about them.
4. Select the top candidates who share your goals.
5. Write a letter or e-mail to your prospective mentor requesting a meeting.
6. Call to set up the meeting.
7. Prepare a short list of questions to get feedback on your current situation.
8. Meet with them; ask about their history, current situation and goals.
9. State your goals and ask relevant questions.
10. If you are impressed by their responses, find out their views regarding a mentoring relationship.
11. Send a thank-you note and perhaps a gift.
12. Review your notes.
13. Take action on their suggestions.
14. Call to discuss the results of those actions and request a second appointment.
15. Propose a mentoring relationship.
After outlining and holding a lengthy discussion on the above points, Ivy concluded by giving tips on working with your mentor:
• Take an interest in the person as a human being.
• Avoid remarks like, “I’d like to pick up your brain.”
• Don’t try to monopolize a lot of your mentor’s time at first.
• Be clear about what you are doing and what you need.
• Listen, listen and listen to what they say.
• Thank the person for their time.
• Reciprocate once in a while.
• Learn to make links between cause and effect.
• Do not put the mentor in a position where he or she has to figure it all out for you.
Mentoring is a two-way relationship where the mentor and the person being mentored have a mutual benefit.
Speaker: Irene Kinuthia
Organization: Quantum Conferences
As many more women engage in professional careers, many more are finding it harder to fulfill all their duties as professionals, mothers, and wives, and friends. For a woman to be productive in her line of duty, she must learn the art of balancing all she is involved in. Irene started by giving a case study to the participants to read. It is a Strange Feeling is a story of a professional woman who is happy at work but she is not happy about her family and social life. Irene then asked the participants to point out the negatives and positives of such a situation, and to suggest how the woman could balance her work, family and social life. She gave some recommendations:
1. Creating Time
She advised women to have a diary to write their daily activities and schedule them at a particular time to create order. Procrastination is dangerous; do what you are supposed to do at that particular time, she said.
2. Involvement Management
Women should get involved in all they do with their entire minds. Many women multi-task in their minds unconsciously. They are at the office, home and with their children at the same time. Focus has to be put on what one is doing at that particular time.
Get satisfaction in your areas of interest. Enjoy what you are doing for maximum productivity.
4. Management Skills
Life is worth managing and it needs a C.E.O. and that is you. Know yourself well and learn to prioritize. Learn to say no because sometimes you cannot be everywhere. Self-management skills have advantages like health, balance, lowering of stress, higher performance, and better goal setting ad achieving.
WHAT DO WOMEN WANT?
Speakers: Muthoni Garland and Betty Wamalwa
“Women have a weakness of always talking about what they don’t want. ‘I don’t like my shoes, I hate her behaviour.’ But they rarely talk about what they want.” These were the opening remarks from Muthoni Garland. She explained that this was what drove her to come up with this talk on what women really want. If we know what we really want then we can focus on it and thus get it.
Betty Wamalwa urged the women to have clear goals in life so as to have defined successes. She affirmed that she has always known what she wants and that is why she has made it. The session was highly interactive, whereby the participants were divided into groups of two to discuss the following:
a) What they want
b) What hinders them from achieving what they want
c) What they need to do to overcome the hindrances so as to get what they want.
Women should think big and aim high even when they start small businesses. Muthoni gave a good example, saying that if you want to start a hair salon, why not express it as: “I am starting a hair empire.” Women have to talk about what they want and what their ambitions are regardless of the fear that someone might steal their ideas.
All in all the women left the session inspired and energized. Watch this space for more Women in Leadership sessions.