A woman of great strength who stood her ground like a warrior to achieve excellence in a male-dominated field
Long gone are the days when the woman had to stay back home, take care of the children while the man was the breadwinner. Days when educating women was frowned upon and considered a waste of resources have long been forgotten. Times have surely changed but does that mean society finally views a man and a woman as equals? Why do we still have to constantly keep proving that yes, we can? Thanks to female empowerment and formal education, women have said no to gender inequality and Eunice Macharia is one of them.
A highly experienced and polished professional, Eunice is a registered property valuer and estate agent. She seats on the board of the Institution of Surveyors of Kenya as the deputy chair. The institution comprises about 3000 members in the various surveying disciplines which include: valuers, property managers, estate agents, surveyors, the GIS and land administration managers.
She also sits in the Registration Board that registers the estate agents who are practising in the country. Currently, they have about 400 members and are actually appealing for more people to come and register because the industry has a lot of quacks who practise as estate agents but are not registered. Eunice also sits in the board of Loreto Girls High School, Limuru , which looks after the interests of the girls and mentors them to be future leaders in this country.
She runs Etwons Property Consultants Limited which specializes in valuation, estate agency, property management for construction sites, selling and letting of property, management and facilities management.
Her career journey was guided by the choices she made back at Loreto Girls High School when she decided to do the arts subjects. After high school, Eunice pursued land economics which is one of the male dominated courses but that did not discourage her. She graduated in 1992 from the University of Nairobi and went further to do a master in business administration ( MBA) at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.
“It was a shock for most of us when we left school and actually didn’t get jobs with the government but I got a job in the private sector,” Eunice narrates. She was employed by one of the senior valuers in the country then, Mr. Kahonge who she speaks so highly of. She has worked with corporate institutions like Housing Finance. “I came in at a time when Housing Finance was just doing a change of brand and redefining itself. My contribution in the estate department then was actually to bring the new model of sitting in the open plan where you go to the bank and you don’t need to schedule an appointment to see the manager because you can see him right there,” she says.
After that, she worked for Commercial Bank of Africa at a time when it was expanding in the region and also in the country. As the head of department, valuation and estate agency, she helped the bank expand to many places within the country and the region. Working with different employers in the course of her career has exposed her to both the formal and informal sector and now she is running Etwons Property Consultants as the managing director.
One thing that she can attest to is that, you need people to achieve your goals but at the implementation and planning stage. “As a leader you cannot work alone no matter how qualified and skilled you are, “she says. “ Everybody’s contribution is very important when it comes to achieving your overall goals. If you leave anyone behind, your weakest point will be your downfall. So you need to rally people behind your vision to achieve your goals,” she avers.
Women have special strengths that men don’t have according to her. “We have a softer touch to things and feelings, and we therefore identify with people easily, “she says. “ We bring on board special strengths to the organization while men are wired differently,” she adds. She further says that women are able to interpret and handle several things at once and that is a major strength. “The emotional intelligence of a woman is very important when it comes to managing a company,” she points out.
Further, according to Eunice, women bring in the male and female strength to an organization and that is a perfect mix. “When it comes to managing staff, you know you are looking at results but the person working with you also has needs,” she quips.
When she took over the leadership position at Institution Surveyors of Kenya, together with her team, they mapped out new strategies. They developed structures, a constitution, procedures and processes that have actually helped to streamline the way the institution is run. “As professionals, we are now able to play our different roles in the industry efficiently because when you have a structure that works, then you are also able to give something back to the society,” she emphasizes.
The institution is like the watchdog of the society, when something is going wrong in the industry, they are able to point it out. “When you are developing roles, rules and regulations in the Land Industry we are able to say what works best. We have members from both the private and public sectors. When we bring all these people together, we are able to look at issues from all those different angles. Our aim is to include and bring everybody on board because all members are important regardless of their positions in the industry,” she says.
There are unique challenges that women encounter and this is because of their history and where they have come from. According to her, women have come from a more patriarchal society where it is mostly male dominated. “Men led and we followed,” she quips. Eunice passionately explains: “We are not saying men should not lead but women should also be incorporated. Coming from such a background, you find that our society has certain beliefs on which we have been brought up and made to believe that women need to take supporting roles. As a woman, when seeking a leadership position, you have to numerously prove that you are capable of doing what your male colleague can do, if not better,” she laments.
A lot of women have internalized that, hence they are shy to come forth and offer themselves for leadership positions. It’s not easy because they have to overcome the stereotypes. Indeed, they have to prove themselves worthy especially in male dominated careers. “At times, you go to a construction site as a project manager and the men cannot believe that they are going to listen to you,” she says. “I’m the project manager and I don’t have to prove myself because I earned it,” she adds.
Advice to women
Eunice advises women not to limit their potential and let other people define who they are. “I have seen people let themselves be defined by the size of their salary, car or home. People look at what you have and want to define you around those aspects. No, you cannot be defined by what you have because you have more to give,” she emphasizes.
Women should be resilient because challenges will always be there when they take up leadership positions. “People dissect you because they want to see who you are, you have a goal that you set t to achieve, don’t lose focus of where you are going because of how people perceive you and finally, be patient because your vision needs time to develop,” she advises.
She says that women should treasure their relationships. “As you move up the ladder, treasure the people that you meet along the way. Everybody you meet along the way is important because a period of time from now, you don’t know if you might encounter them or happen to need them. Respect and treasure them. Don’t burn bridges along the way. Even if a relationship goes sour, make sure you part in an amicable way because the burden of a bad relationship can bring you down,” she observes.
By the same token according to her, women should learn to work in solitude. “At times you may need friends and family to support you but they are not the vision carriers, you are,” she says. “If you are always looking for validation, you might lag behind on a lot of things because not everybody is willing to rally behind you,” she observes.
“Women have a special role in the society and they should never shy from vying for top position. It doesn’t have to be a small thing, go for the big thing and above all, let’s have faith because without faith, everything else is in vain. Faith in God, faith in those working with us and faith in ourselves is critical if we are to play our leadership roles effectively,” she points out. “Don’t wait for favours, work hard and earn them. Go to school and read to prepare yourself because when you are ready and set, nothing will stop you,” she wisely ends.