Mercury Kivuva, a manager committed to gender equality

As the manager of several Java House cafés in Nairobi, Mercury Kivuva visits at least two of the chain’s establishments every day in the capital of Kenya. 

“I check the kitchen, the quality of what is being served, hygiene, and generally make sure that everything is working like it should,” she explains. 

At the start of 2015 she was one of 20 participants from two of Swedfund’s portfolio companies in Kenya – Nairobi Java House and retail company Deacons – chosen for Swedfund’s talent programme, Women4Growth.

“For two days we identified and raised our own capacity to achieve our goals. But the activities were not only about understanding our own opportunities. We were also finding out how that can have a positive impact on my company and colleagues,” says Mercury Kivuva, who started in the business as a chef and has worked her way up to her current managerial position. 

Women4Growth, which Swedfund implemented in collaboration with the Swedish Wiminwest consulting firm, made Mercury Kivuva stronger and more secure in her professional role. 

“It has made me more aware that I can create better synergies. By encouraging others to take on difficult tasks that enable them to believe in themselves, I have been able to help them grow into new professional roles.” 

During 2016 Swedfund will continue with the talent programme in other portfolio companies that have the ambition and the desire to focus on their female employees.

“Compliance with ILO core conventions on equal pay for equal work and non-discrimination is part of our assessment, from a gender perspective, of new portfolio companies. It is also part of our strategic sustainability goals. We monitor this annually and we measure the percentage of women employees and women in leading positions andon boards,” says Karin Thorsson, ESG Manager at Swedfund and responsible for Women4Growth. 

The ambition is to develop Women4Growth as an umbrella concept where different types of gender equality programmes will be included. 

“We need to identify requirements. In some portfolio companies, for example, it might be important to design products and services specifically for women.

Various reports show that there is a clear link between greater gender equality and poverty reduction. Efforts to promote gender equality do not need to be about changing standards or behaviour. It can also mean influencing women’s development in other ways and increasing women’s share of economic power. 

“Supporting energy companies that supply electricity to more households frees up time for women. Investing in financial institutions that give loans to women entrepreneurs also makes a difference,” says Karin Thorsson.

Mercury Kivuva believes that Kenya is already on the right track to achieving greater gender equality. 

“I have a 9-year-old daughter and I am convinced that she will grow up in a different Kenya to the one I grew up in. We live in a society that is being transformed and where there are greater opportunities for women to achieve their goals as long as they are smart and work hard. It is increasingly about talent and ability, even though women must still work harder than men to achieve higher positions in the workplace.”

This is how Swedfund works with gender equality

As part of Due diligence work prior to an investment, we review various aspects of the company’s work on gender equality, such as parental leave. In our assessment of a company, our starting point is the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) core conventions on equal pay for equal work and non-discrimination. For all new investments since 2014 we require that the core conventions are respected within three years from our investment. In addition to the proportion of women employees in the business, portfolio companies also report the proportion of women in management positions and on boards.

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