Ever wondered what it’s like to be a woman leader working at a female majority company? Dorcas Masatia, the Director of Operations at Maisha Meds, shares her experience as a woman leader at such a company operating in Kenya. As the Director of Operations, Masatia leads the field operations at Maisha Meds, and has extensive experience managing complex operations for Innovations for Poverty Action and Evidence Action.
A sense of belonging and purpose
“There is pride in the far we have come and the far we are going through team effort and good leadership.”
Masatia was drawn to Maisha Meds because of the opportunity to serve her society through contributing to improve access to quality healthcare.
“It’s great working at Maisha Meds mainly because it’s a mission driven company geared towards ensuring the bottom of the pyramid have access to quality and affordable healthcare.”
Being one of the earliest employees at Maisha Meds, she has seen the organisation grow from less than 10 employees in 2017 to 39 (22 female and 17 male) employees in 2021.
“The scope of the organisation has also grown from simply offering the Point of Sale software to now having a co-pay programme that has increased access to healthcare for patients at the bottom of the pyramid as well as partnering with quality suppliers to ensure patients have access to quality medications.”
As the company grows, the culture has developed into one of equal opportunities for all, the freedom to express oneself and be innovative, while also leaving room for a lot of collaboration across teams.
Women leadership at the top
“The very able team of women has proven that when united and driven by a common purpose, women are able to grow a company and greatly impact the world.”
Female leadership at Maisha Meds begins at the top with both our CEO and CTO being female. Jessica Vernon, the CEO of Maisha Meds, leads the organisation towards achieving its overall mission and vision while Jenny Cheng as the CTO leads engineering for the suite of Maisha Meds products.
Female representation at the top extends across several parts of Maisha Meds. Christine Otieno is the Director of Supply Chain, Veronica Njeri is the Director of Programs, and Roshni Walia serves as the Chief of Staff. Both Veronica and Roshni note that having women colleagues in leadership positions has created an atmosphere of mutual understanding, trust and teamwork.
“Leveraging on inclusivity, a prominent mindset in women, there is a general trust culture created by the women leaders I have found at Maisha Meds. This environment enhances a shared collaborative space that enhances our teamwork.” (Veronica Njeri)
“Working at a women-led and majority women organisation has helped me understand that barriers to growth are less insurmountable than I may have thought. For example, Jessica always makes sure to ask if I’m energised by what I’m working on, gives me opportunities to try new things, and believes I can do them!” (Roshni Walia)
Leading by example
“I believe the compassionate side of the leadership has made a majority of the team members own the vision at a personal level because they feel cared for and also feel seen and heard.”
For Masatia, being a woman in leadership has been a great experience with a lot of learnings along the way. Having a majority of the employees being female has made it easier in terms of mutual understanding on issues. Several women have helped Masatia grow into the leader she is today. Her mother taught her not to allow her gender or society’s expectation of what a woman can or cannot do dictate what one can achieve in life. At work, Jessica taught her the value of ensuring you are heard even in forums predominantly dominated by men. In addition to having women cheerleaders, Masatia has also participated in coaching programmes that have helped her develop as a leader.
Paving the path for upcoming female leaders
“Belief in oneself.”
A leadership lesson Masatia has learned in her career is that leadership is a great responsibility and your success as a leader is greatly determined by how you treat and develop your team.
“With the right leadership, your team will go over and above your expectations and their call of duty to ensure the overall success of the organisation.”
The biggest challenge for young women on a leadership path, she feels, is not being taken seriously. Women have to push to be heard by some audiences. To overcome this and other challenges facing women on leadership paths, Masatia reiterates the need to believe in yourself, to always strive for continuous career and personal development, and finally to embrace coaching and mentorship from fellow women already in leadership positions.
We’re a way from gender equality, but we can get there! There are various actions we can take to advance ourselves and the women around us; we must choose to challenge.