IWD2022: Ten women that inspire us to #BreaktheBias in unlocking the potential of Africa’s young geniuses

SFAN
8 min readMar 8, 2022

Every year, on a day like this, the world celebrates International Women’s Day to acknowledge and highlight the contributions of women to every sphere of human existence.

And this celebration is vitally crucial because even though women continue to make a definitive impact on society, women haven’t always received commensurate consideration as men.

Here are some numbers to underscore that point.

According to Forbes, women-owned businesses account for 40% of Africa’s SMEs but receive only 1% of funding from VCs. On a global scale, a similar analysis by Crunchbase suggests that only about 2.3% of venture capital goes to women entrepreneurs.

In terms of equal pay, the narrative isn’t much different.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that in 2020, women’s annual earnings were 82.3% of men’s, and the gap is even wider for many women of color. A BBC survey found that even though 83% of sports organisations now offer the same amount of prize money for men and women, the difference for the 17% that don’t offer equal pay runs into the millions. The United States national women’s team only recently won a $24m payout and a pledge from US Soccer to equalize pay for the men’s and women’s national teams in all competitions — ending a six-year legal battle over equal pay. Tennis star Naomi Osaka (number 29) is the only woman that appeared in Forbes 2020 top 50 highest-paid athletes.

One report says that if we don’t close the economic participation and opportunity gap soon, it will take 257 years to close the gender gap.

That said, we want to highlight ten of the women champions, trailblazers, and survivors that inspire us to continue to #BreaktheBias, as we unlock the potential of Africa’s young geniuses.

  1. Tucci Ivowi, CEO of Ghana Commodity Exchange

Tucci Ivowi is an experienced business leader with over 18 years of experience in marketing and general business management in the UK and emerging markets of Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. She has extensive experience in manufacturing (retail and consumer markets) and a depth of product knowledge across the value chain, specializing in coffee and cocoa. She has worked in various roles, including Business Unit Director, Marketing Communications Director, and Managing Director in one of the global leading FMCG companies. She is currently the CEO and a founding member of the Ghana Commodity Exchange. Ivowi is a member of SFAN’s Board of Advisors and has spoken at SFAN events. Learn more about her here.

2. Rosy Fynn, Country Head, Mastercard Foundation

Rosy Fynn is an award-winning business and change leader with over a decade’s executive-level experience building and transforming organizations across Africa and the United States. She has a wealth of experience in the technology, financial services, consulting, and insurance industries. She is amongst Ghana’s marketing elite, having held the Marketing Director/Chief Marketing Officer role at three major telecommunications companies. Before Mastercard, Rosy was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Busy Internet, a leading internet service provider in Ghana. She brought to Busy expertise in marketing, customer experience, and brand management, honed at multinational organizations like Airtel and Millicom International Cellular (Tigo). Under her leadership, Busy Internet partnered and hosted SFAN’s Global Student Entrepreneurship Week in 2020. See a live stream here.

3. Ayesha Bedwei, Tax Leader at PwC Ghana and PwC Africa’s Diversity and Inclusion Leader

Ayesha Bedwei Ibe is the Tax Leader at PwC Ghana and PwC Africa’s Diversity and Inclusion Leader and President of the American Chamber of Commerce Ghana. She is also PwC West Africa’s Corporate Responsibility Leader. Ayesha has over 20 years of experience in finance and accounting and has built a network of influential clients and associates during her professional career. Ayesha has a wealth of experience in the Energy field due to her involvement in Ghana’s oil and gas sector from its inception in 2007 to date. Ayesha services multinational clients across various industries, including fast-moving consumer goods, telecommunications, and manufacturing. Ayesha is passionate about youth development and has supported SFAN events as a keynote speaker on two occasions. See her interview here.

4. Tracy Kyei, ​​Marketing Manager for Samsung West Africa

Tracy is an adept marketer with proven skills in leading traditional and digital marketing strategies to drive profits, increase market share, and cement industry dominance for demanding customers. She’s well-versed in directing high-value projects and a top-notch communicator with a proactive and resourceful approach to leading high-performance teams. She believes in building positive relationships and promoting products and services with innovative and forward-thinking strategies. Tracy has 10+ years of experience developing campaigns, overseeing product launches, improving market penetration, influencer and stakeholder management, public and government relations. Her work experience spans Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Gabon, Sierra Leone, and the UK. Tracy was a coach during the initial pilot phase of ReadyforWork in 2019 and has participated in two SFAN events.

5. Lise Birikundavyi, Managing Partner of BKR Capital

Lise Birikundavyi is the Managing Partner of BKR Capital, the first institutionally-backed black-led VC fund in Canada. Lise is an innovative finance specialist who has worked with several international institutions, most notably the Jacobs Foundation, for whom she managed an edtech impact investment strategy. Lise also mentors and supports up-and-coming and impactful start-ups in emerging markets. She began her career in the hedge fund industry in Montreal. Her interest in mixing attractive financial returns with long-term societal impact inspired her to transition to the impact finance sector. She has experience across the investment spectrum: from funds of funds and VCs to being the transition CEO of a tech start-up. Lise has been a longtime supporter of SFAN and its ReadyforWork digital career accelerator.

6. Lisa Glenn-Nobles, Operations Navigator, Journeyage

50’s housewife by interest and intersectional feminist at heart, Lisa is just as likely to be whipping up strawberry jalapeno preserves as crafting a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging action plan for Journeyage. Her professional passions include building systems, creating solid cultures that value humans over profits, and making Slack is a fun place to be. When she’s not working on operations at Journeyage, she can just as likely be found: Hiking in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Binge-watching Queer Eye, Planning her next international trip (South America, Japan, Kazakhstan, and New Zealand are on the shortlist), Hanging out with her husband throwing the ball to labrador, Clarence or cuddling with ragdoll cat Honey. Lisa supports ReadyforWork as program lead. Learn more about Lisa here.

7. Cynthia Mills, Economic Empowerment Advisor, MTN Ghana Foundation

Cynthia Mills is an International Gender practitioner supporting the marginalized and vulnerable, promoting sustainable development initiatives, and facilitating social change. She has 20+ years of work experience in Administration, Gender, Sustainable Livelihoods, Social Entrepreneurship in International, Private Sector Foundations, and Non-Governmental Organizations and has impacted thousands across Ghana and internationally at community, district, and national levels. She has robust experience in facilitating and mobilizing all sectors of Civil Society to participate in governance at the district, community, and national level for transparency, accountability, and economic development. Cynthia is leading and building African institutions to improve service delivery aligned with some SDGs. Her vast experience at MTN Ghana Foundation has effectively impacted over 50 African institutions in this direction. Cynthia supports SFAN’s work, and MTN sponsored Quantum Leap Career Fair 2021.

8. Carole Ramella, M.D, GFA Consulting ltd

Carole Ramella began her career in the banking industry, where she handled client relationships for institutional clients. She then joined Arthur Andersen as a Senior Auditor; as such, Carole participated in several audit assignments in the Manufacturing, Advertising, and Financial Services industries. After her experience at Arthur Andersen, Carole joined Gras Savoye, a French leading insurance broker company. She developed the M&A practice for French and international private equity clients and industrial investors. She then joined Duff & Phelps, one of the world’s leading independent financial advisory firms, helped increase the brand’s awareness in France with CAC 40 companies and high-growth SMEs, and was promoted to Vice President within a year. Carole has been a longtime supporter of SFAN and currently shares her insights in helping design programs for ReadyforWork.

9. Catherine Engmann, Partner and Head, Sirdar Ghana

Catherine Engmann joined the Sirdar Group in May 2019 as Partner and Head of Sirdar Ghana. She has a wealth of corporate governance and company secretarial experience gained over two decades. Her expertise lies in helping Entrepreneurs, Founders, and CEOs identify the right people to have on their boards, set up their boards, and guide boardroom processes. She has also been involved in the recapitalization of companies through private equity financing, listing new companies, handling mergers and acquisitions, and managing employee share plans globally. Catherine spent the first 15 years of her career supporting companies listed on the UK Stock Exchange, with the last decade focused on the family business space in Africa. Catherine sponsored three students to join ReadyforWork training in 2019.

10. Angela Okugo, Group Head, Commercial Banking, Access Bank

Angela Okugo has over 25 years of experience in Banking Operations and Business Development and its related fields in the sector. Before joining Access Bank Ghana, Angela worked as a Branch Manager at Amalgamated Bank Ghana (now Bank of Africa). She earlier worked in operations (in various capacities) with FSB International Bank Plc. and later in the Business Development Unit of Diamond Bank Plc., all in Nigeria. Angela joined Access Bank in March 2010 as Head of the Asian Corporate Unit in the Commercial Banking Division. She rose to the position of Cluster Head after the merger with the erstwhile Intercontinental Bank. She was appointed Head of the Bank’s Central Processing Unit and later reassigned to head the Channel Services Group before taking up her current position as Group Head, Commercial Banking. Angela supports SFAN’s mission of helping young people live on their terms.

SFAN is the education company that unlocks the potential of Africa’s young geniuses by helping them turn their passions into businesses and fulfilling careers. To apply for the next cohort of ReadyforWork digital career accelerator, visit www.readyforwork.africa. Contact SFAN via info(at)sfanonline.org.

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SFAN

SFAN is the education company that unlocks the potential of Africa’s young geniuses by helping them turn their passion into businesses and fulfilling careers.