Hamjambo! Habari za asubuhi!
Good morning. It is an honor to be here with some of Kenya’s most dynamic, distinguished, and accomplished executives!
Thank you for the opportunity to join you in launching the Kenya chapter of Women Corporate Directors. This chapter joins a worldwide network of successful businesswomen who promote best practices in corporate governance, and who are dedicated to the professional growth of their fellow female executives.
But today’s event is more than the launch of this chapter. It’s a powerful sign. A sign that women across the globe are gaining ground. A sign that the glass ceiling will be broken. And a sign that Women Corporate Directors believe in Kenya – in Kenya’s power to help lead the way.
The challenges that remain are great. Though more and more CEOs and corporate directors around the world are women, the numbers are still small. And many of these women leaders face built-in obstacles. The Economist newspaper wrote last year about the “glass precipice”: more women corporate leaders are brought into their positions from outside the company, without the inside connections and training of male counterparts; and more women are brought in to lead when their company is already struggling. These factors often undermine women leaders even after they’ve made it in the door.
Nevertheless, Kenya, and the world, are making strides toward equality. We are seeing the concrete positive results of women in corporate leadership. Studies show the stocks of companies with women on the Board of Directors perform better than those without any female Directors. Women make up some of the most dynamic innovators and managers of our time.
And it goes beyond the corporate level. The world is also finally realizing the ripple effects of a more equal workforce. Whether she runs a multinational corporation or owns a kiosk, an economically empowered woman invests in the future. She invests in her children, her family, her community, bringing growth and change for those around her.
I have seen this firsthand in my work at embassies from Tunisia to South Africa. And I’ve been profoundly impressed by the work of women leaders here in Kenya. Like the environmental scientist who joined our Young African Leaders Initiative: her organization recycles waste into critical supplies in informal settlements. Or the head of the African Women Entrepreneurship Program here in Kenya, who has become a major exporter of textiles to the United States and mentors young women entrepreneurs.
The United States Government aims to help women participate fully in the global economy, and to create opportunities for them to lead. That is why we have programs like the Ambassador’s Self Help Fund; the Equal Futures Partnership; and the Fortune Magazine-State Department mentorship program, to name a few. The African Women Entrepreneurship Program, or AWEP, also supports burgeoning women entrepreneurs with such initiatives as mWomen, TechWomen and TechGirls, empowering through technology.
The United States also stands for good corporate governance. It is the backbone of any business’s bottom line – and directly translates to growth in the overall economy.
For all these reasons, I am so pleased to support the launch of the Women Corporate Directors Kenya Chapter. WCD is in the right place. You already know that Kenya has a wealth of talented and ambitious business women across a number of sectors and industries, as well as in the government. You will also soon discover that there is an abundance of talent in Kenya’s universities and colleges who will join your ranks in the not so distant future.
Once again, congratulations on the opening of the Kenya chapter.