RENEW Strategies

Be the Woman who Fixes Another Woman’s Crown…

alt text
Laura Davis
| March 7, 2020

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day to celebrate the achievements of women, while simultaneously acknowledging and accelerating gender equality. Gender parity is an issue that should be on everyone’s radar, especially businesses. At RENEW, we believe that gender equality and gender-smart companies are enabling factors that, in addition to being just, will also help economies in sub-Saharan Africa thrive. As the IWD website states, “the race is on for the gender-equal boardroom, a gender-equal government, gender-equal media coverage, gender-equal workplaces, gender-equal sports coverage and more gender equality in health and wealth.” (International Women’s Day).

In celebration of IWD, and with gender equality always at the forefront of our work and business, we wanted to highlight a few perspectives from some of the amazing women on our team. These women are from diverse backgrounds and are located across four different countries and two continents where RENEW currently has operations. While we still have work to do to continue our push for gender equality, gender-balanced teams, and gender-smart policies, we’ve taken steps and have set goals to make this a reality (read more about RENEW’s Gender Equality Report Card). In the meantime, we hope you enjoy these perspectives on the challenges and opportunities our team has seen in the impact investing and investment space.

Scroll down or click through to the following team members:


Dagmawit Shiferaw, Project Manager - Ethiopia:

Why did you choose to work with RENEW? What drew you to the company?
At first, the job description was very interesting; then during the onboarding the whole vision of the company was in line with my values.

What does career success look like? What holds you back?
Career success for me is to have impactful work, successful results and appropriate compensation. What might hold me back is my desire to spend more time with my family/kids.

Are there any opportunities or challenges you face as a woman in this industry?
Opportunities in the industry require critical thinking and careful reasoning which I believe the women have and the industry is acknowledging they need this balance. The challenge is that the industry is more time demanding and it might be challenging for women with a family to accommodate this need. Also, some of the industry players are still not recognizing that women can actually be as good or better than men and are either not giving them the opportunity or are not paying them enough.

What is it like working in the investment industry? Do you feel women are well represented in the industry? In impact investing?
As a whole impact investing is a new phenomenon in Ethiopia, but usually women are more attracted to impact investing as they witness the social impacts around them and they are usually trying to solve the social challenges by also improving their family’s livelihood. But as the women-owned businesses are often very small, they are not well represented in the impact investing space.

Is there a female executive you look up to? If yes, why?
Bethlehem Tilahun of soleRebels. She has been able to execute a big vision and have an internationally competitive brand.

Is there any advice you have (or have you heard) for women executives or women in finance?
For women executives, don't try to do it all. Delegate, know what’s happening in your business (know your numbers), understand what each division does and set milestones to keep them accountable, then track their performance. This will give you confidence and also the respect from your staff.


Erin O’Connor, Marketing & Investor Relations - Canada:

Why did you choose to work with RENEW? What drew you to the company?
Having worked in the investment industry, I had heard murmurs about impact investing and it became my mission to join a company where my ideals and values would line up with the work I was doing. I was looking for a company that I could get behind, and one that I would feel good about contributing to at the end of the day. That’s when I found RENEW and joining the team was a no-brainer for me.

What does career success look like? What holds you back?
Career success for me is being with a company that acknowledges your contributions and being in a role that is challenging and always evolving. What holds me back? I think guts. Just having the guts to really grasp for what I want and go for it.

Are there any opportunities or challenges you face as a woman in this industry?
I think the investment industry as a whole is still male-dominated and has that “boys club” mentality. As a woman, that can be a challenging barrier to break through at times. I do think more and more companies are making concerted efforts to put more women in higher positions and are striving for more gender-balanced teams, which I think is a great opportunity that is slowly presenting itself.

What is it like working in the investment industry? Do you feel women are well represented in the industry? In impact investing?
I think working in the investment industry, in general, can be challenging at times in terms of being heard and listened to. However, I don’t think you see this bias as much in impact investing. So many impact investing companies and stakeholders are oftentimes trailblazers for gender equality issues. I think the industry as a whole could learn a lot from this sector.

Is there a female executive you look up to? If yes, why?
I felt a bit corny writing this, but as much as I tried to think of someone well-known, I kept coming back to my mom. She started her own business in a heavily male-dominated industry, and I was always so impressed with how she gained respect and got herself a seat at the table, oftentimes being one of the only women there. I’ve always been inspired by her strong work ethic, the hours she was willing to put in, and seeing how people respected and listened to her.

Is there any advice you have (or have you heard) for women executives or women in finance?
“Be the woman who fixes another woman’s crown, without telling the world that it was crooked”. I think it’s good work and life advice for women in any role, in any job.


Kirsten Newman, Associate General Counsel - U.S.A.:

Why did you choose to work with RENEW? What drew you to the company?
I was looking for meaningful work in the development space, something that had an international focus and that I could be proud to be a part of. After learning about RENEW, I was intrigued by its unique approach to investing and its belief that investing (and not charity) is the best way to empower developing countries.

What does career success look like? What holds you back?
To me, career success is being in a role that is challenging and stimulating, that pushes me to grow and learn, but that is also rewarding -- that is making a difference in the world in some way -- and that provides a balance between life and work. Doing impactful, challenging, meaningful work (but also recognizing that life doesn't revolve around work).

Are there any opportunities or challenges you face as a woman in this industry?
I think there are always challenges for women in the finance industry regardless of setting. In my experience, finance in the development space perhaps presents fewer challenges, as the companies and partners we are working with recognize the importance of gender equality and gender-balanced teams. But the typical stereotypes and barriers of women in finance are always out there, regardless of industry or sector.

What is it like working in the investment industry? Do you feel women are well represented in the industry? In impact investing?
To me, it seems like women are better represented in the impact investing / development space than in the finance industry overall. I think generally in the finance industry, there are still a lot of barriers for women who face the "old boys' club" mentality, but I'm glad to see this being broken down and am pleased with the number of women I encounter in our work at RENEW.

Is there a female executive you look up to? If yes, why?
I look up to one of the partners at my old law firm -- she was an immigrant, single mother and became a partner at one of the most prominent law firms in the world in eight years (which is basically unheard of these days). She was also only the second female partner in our practice group. She is brilliant, and she stands her ground, never letting anyone in the room speak over her or diminish her voice and opinions.

Is there any advice you have (or have you heard) for women executives or women in finance?
Overcoming the "impostor syndrome" -- the feeling that you aren't qualified or don't deserve a seat at the table. Own your accomplishments, force yourself to speak out and offer ideas, and recognize that your ideas and input are valuable. Find your voice and use it.


Mary Adoi, Legal Counsel - Uganda:

Why did you choose to work with RENEW? What drew you to the company?
The diversity of the team and hands-on approach to developing economies in developing countries.

What does career success look like? What holds you back?
Playing a pivotal role in transforming industry and economies across East Africa. What holds me back: Time. With RENEW and similar companies, this impact is a matter of time and concerted effort.

Are there any opportunities or challenges you face as a woman in this industry?
Surprisingly, none. Coming in, I thought this would not be the case but, I have been pleasantly surprised. The "boys club" has an open door policy.

What is it like working in the investment industry? Do you feel women are well represented in the industry? In impact investing?
Women are underrepresented at the point of investment and deciding where capital is placed; however, there are more women in the business acceleration/ incubation end of investment.

Is there a female executive you look up to? If yes, why?
Anne Juuko. She is the youngest and first female CEO of Stanbic Bank Uganda and has risen through the ranks in the financial sector. I look up to her because her appointment was based on merit and she played her part well, in a “man's world".

Is there any advice you have (or have you heard) for women executives or women in finance?
There are no excuses, you have to do your time.


To find out more about RENEW or the IAN, contact us at renew@renewstrategies.com, follow us on Twitter @RENEWLLC or find us on Instagram @impactangelnetwork. Be sure to check out our upcoming events, including our upcoming Econ-Tourism Trip.