Beverley Tew

Maryanne Karanja

Supply Chain Professional

Africa

 

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced as a woman in business to date?

That’s an interesting question because I do not think that there in one single challenge over my 20 year professional career that I would designate as the ‘Biggest’. The truth is, like much of life, I have been faced with different ‘biggest’ challenges depending on the season I was journeying through. For example, early in my career in the late 90’s, my biggest challenge as a career professional and a first-time mum was nursing and raising my asthmatic child. I would have benefitted immensely from the flexible working arrangements available today. In the mid 2000’s, the biggest challenge I faced was gaining acceptance not only as a Manager but as a respected peer and supervisor to male company colleagues many of whom were considerably older than I was. My current challenge, as a seasoned, mature and well-established corporate leader is the ‘Double Bind’ women in leadership generally face - I am either perceived as too ‘strong’ or too ‘forthright’, simply because I am a woman leader. Oftentimes I sense the need to increase my ‘likeability index’, to achieve my goals, particularly when engaging in critical business meetings. Whereas I do not struggle with remaining authentic and true to myself, I often ponder when the societal expectations of a female in leadership will evolve to regarding us first and always as person and as leader.

Who has inspired you (male or female)?

I have many people who have inspired me including early life influencers like my parents who taught me the ethos of hard work and integrity, and my school teachers who instilled in me the love for math and finance. As an adult the person who inspires me the most is Oprah Winfrey. She is purpose driven; committed to reinvention and resilience; and through her philanthropic activity, continues to better the world. She loves and has embraced who she is becoming. Words of hers that deeply speak to me are: ‘"I was once afraid of people saying, 'Who does she think she is?' Now I have the courage to stand and say, 'This is who I am.'"

What do you wish you’d known when you started out and/ or what advice would you give your younger self?

I wish I had known not to overthink career decisions. Overthinking drives fear of change, fear of standing out and it fans the ‘imposter syndrome’. The advice I would give my younger self, and in fact do give to younger ladies I mentor, is not to overthink what you will be and do at particular set age. I ask them to embrace who they are; to be courageous. They are in control, they are in the driver’s seat of their lives.

What are the character traits of successful women and/or what do you think makes a good leader?

 Characteristics of successful women are the same as those of a successful leader. I have these to be authenticity, integrity, courage, self-awareness and awareness of others and, most critical of all, empathy. I believe that there is no substitute for empathy as it is a foundational relationship between human beings. It is a key human and leadership quality particularly in a crisis as we’ve seen during these unprecedented pandemic times.

Do you have a favourite quote or statement that sums up your approach to life?

My favourite quote is “If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary” and I am happy to share it hoping it inspires others to aim high as it has done for me.

What do you #ChooseToChallenge?

Wow…this is a difficult question as there are so many things I choose to challenge. However, knowing this is International Women’s Day 2021 challenge, then I #ChooseToChallenge unequitable norms, standards and expectations.

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