Next up in our International Women’s Day series, we have Senior Project Accountant, Sandra Mwase.
Why do you think it is important to celebrate International Women’s Day?
Although I believe that women should be celebrated every day, for many obvious reasons, celebrating this day is important because by doing so, we are all reminded of the gender inequities that continue to exist in the world, it also keeps the debate open about what can be done to make the world a more equal place for everyone.
Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being a woman? If so, how did you overcome them?
I was born in Africa where, like so many parts of the world, stereotypical gender roles are assigned to women that hinder them from realizing their full potential. The role of a girl and woman in some parts of the world is totally domestic; learn household chores, take care of the home, education is not that important, and females are taught from an early age that their role is to let the man take charge. Fortunately, I was raised in a home where my father valued girl-child education and believed we were all equal and had the potential to be something important. I have grown up seeing women fail and get stuck due to these stereotypes. But because of my upbringing, I learned not to let myself be pushed down and disregarded, especially knowing what I can bring to the table. However, during my career years, I have seen men underestimate me until they realize that I can perform.
What do you think is the biggest issue today facing women of your age?
Women are still afraid of being as good, or should I say, great as they can possibly be especially because of the existing gender biases. For example, know of women who have said they will omit to speak about their plans to have families just to make sure they do not lose a job opportunity because they believe doing so is the only way to get ahead and be appreciated.
Why do we need more women in leadership?
Having more women in leadership helps break down barriers that have been put up by society. Studies show that women have more empathy and are usually more inclusive which is vital for progress. With more women in leadership, young girls will have more role models to look up to and believe in themselves. We should appreciate their contributions to life in general.
What advice would you give to young women aspiring to a similar career path?
Always believe in yourself, do not give up! Life is full of hurdles, but where there is a will, there is always a way! Do not let anyone shadow your shine. Keep your head up and your dreams alive.
What’s the biggest learning experience you’ve had?
Being a mother and having a career has been eye-opening. Trying to be present for both your kids and your profession is the most challenging thing ever! I have learned a lot through this journey, and I am still learning to make this work and be present on both fronts. Physical and mental fatigue is unexplainable, especially in a society where the time allowed for parental leave is so minimal and childcare is very costly.
What’s your favorite/most rewarding part of your work?
Accounting is about never-ending deadlines – monthly, quarterly, annually! Missing a simple deadline creates a huge mess. Meeting deadlines and hitting targets is very rewarding to me.
If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
Rosa Parks – For the times (the 50’s) and just being a woman, she stood up for what was right without being afraid. This is such an inspiration to us all.
Michelle Obama – She has worked so hard to help women figure out how to balance their careers and their families even by example. She has been a true advocate for education for adolescent girls.
But most important of all, my late mother – I am what I am because of her. She was a teacher by profession but when it came to what was needed, she sacrificed her career to take care of us all. I am the youngest of seven siblings, my mother was a teacher and retired when I was in primary four, which is 4th or 5th grade in the U.S. She taught us everything she knew and raised a strong beautiful family.