Mary Wacukah is the incumbent Director for Strategy and Operations at leading real estate company Optiven. In that capacity, she also leads within the Strategic Business Units under the Optiven Group including hotels, construction and the foundation.

The company was awarded the 2021 Women of Boards Award for their role in Empowering Women at the Grassroot Level. Ahead of the 2022 International Women’s Day, she shared her sentiments on key areas that are of importance in empowering not just women but the society.

1. What is your take with regard to women in the workplace in terms of their performance and tenacity when it comes to real estate?
The reality is that more and more women are taking up space in real estate not just as support staff but as top managers and top sales people. In the last five to seven years, we have seen a tremendous growth of female staff joining ranks throughout the Optiven Group. This includes those serving diligently at the strategic business units and the foundation. Bottomline, the women are shining.

2. Apart from the government’s call to increase inclusivity of women at board-level especially for public companies, is the space for inclusivity exclusive of the men?
I shall speak on behalf of the Optiven Group where the issue of gender is not a determinant of whether or not someone gets on board. As a target oriented company, we focus our emphasis on what the associates bring on the table. By so doing we become an equitable and inclusive company where everyone thrives.

3. As a leader of over 400 staff directly affected by your decisions, what can leaders do to encourage women in the corporate sector in terms of growth and impact in the workplace?
In my opinion, I would say, that it is necessary to set the pace, mentor and coach those under one’s leadership to be the best version they can be. To do this, it is imperative to understand the potential of the team members so that this potential can be harnessed to be something tangible for both the staff and company. The result is a win win situation that delivers targets, results and in the long run reduced turnover amidst corporate growth.

4. On the clamor to be inclusive of the ‘neglected boy-child’ what is the onus of corporate Kenya towards enabling the men in the workplace so as to ensure women succeed mutually?
The challenge for the corporate sector is to draw the line between individuals needs and those of the company. Having said this, the cultural shift to empower the girl child has seen the neglect of the boy child which has in turn affected the society. I advocate for empowerment of both simply because the world needs both men and women to work together for a better future.

5. Where does the future mirror the woman in the next 20 years in terms of culturally enshrined biases?
The future is certainly going to have highly empowered women which will disrupt the cultural picture of what gender is or is not. Roles may be switched because more and more women are adapting to different priorities and having families for example is not one of them. More and more women will have opportunities for education, employment and further empowerment meaning they will have broken out of the shell that defines who is a woman. I believe we will have to wait and see.

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