A survey by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers shows that women are dominating the East African country's top mechanized jobs, although men still own most businesses and have better paying jobs.
Easter Kojwang is a businesswoman who started her own natural foods packaging company. The firm has grown by leaps and bounds since she started it five years ago. She and other women are leaders in Kenyan manufacturing, but Kojwang says it still can be difficult to deal with men in the industry.
"For example, you want to supply your honey to a big company and the procurement manager might be a man, who might want more from you than you are willing to, you know, willing to give," said Kojwang. "You just want to do clean business."
Despite Kenyan men having most – and better paid - manufacturing jobs, Kenyan women are dominating the sector’s top careers. A September Kenya Association of Manufacturers survey says even male owners seem to prefer having women run their factories, with 89 per cent of their senior managers being women.
“What this demonstrates is that when you have also boards and leaders who support the growth of women in the manufacturing sector you tend to see policies put in place - that mainstream gender into the boardroom - what this leads to is that more women are able to rise to top leadership positions," said Phyllis Wakiaga, the association's chief executive officer.
But women owners like Kojwang are still a minority, with men owning 73 per cent of Kenya’s factories. Cleopatra Mugyenyi, director of the Africa Regional Office at the International Center for Research on Women, explains why women are taking up manufacturing.
"Why they are going into it, because they are seeing it’s a lucrative sector, it’s a sector that has opportunities," said Mugyenyi. "But we have to understand that even though we are having more women go into manufacturing most of their jobs and most of their businesses are actually informal.”
Mugyenyi says those companies that do have more women attract and retain talent and are better able to gauge consumer interest and demand.
To help level the playing field, Kenyan authorities say they are helping to fund women manufacturers. Lawrence Karanja is the ministry of Industrialization chief administration secretary.
"We have various programs and projects to support women manufacturers," said Karanja. "First, we have a women enterprise fund which is available, we are giving loans to women. We have partnered with other institutions, for instance micro and small enterprise authority, we give funds to women."
That gives Kenya’s women manufacturing leaders more hope for a just future in the industry.