Meet CEO who Wears Ankara to the Office


Phyllis Wakiaga Kenya Association of Manufacturers CEO. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA

Phyllis Wakiaga, the chief executive of Kenya Association of Manufacturers, wears little makeup and boldly dresses in African-print attires to the office.

‘‘I have resolved to stand out in my African attires as a statement of pride,” she says.

The 36-year-old CEO insists women are their worst enemies when they dress for the public and not for themselves. She wears a Fossil watch worth Sh25,000 and is dressed by Akinyi Odonyo, a fashion designer who has wooed the Kenyan luxury consumer and stitches African-print clothes for First Lady Margaret Kenyatta.

“Anyone aspiring for a C-Suite position must start dressing like one early in life. All your statements should foster progress, challenge long-held positions,” says the mother-of-three.

She says make-up, perhaps the caked-on kind on the face, could derail a woman’s input in crucial matters. She loves salmon fish with potatoes and prefers black tea any day.

In her bag, she always carries her most favourite book ‘‘What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done.’’

With technology taking a toll on most people’s lives and relationships, the CEO prefers leaving her gadgets on the kitchen counter to allow her quality time with her family.

“Keep gadgets out of bedroom or else you will tweet and chat the entire night and for the rest of your life,’’ she says.

She wakes up at 5.30 am for devotion before going to the family’s gym room to work out on the treadmill, indoor-cycle and skip a rope. ‘‘I also like venturing out for an early morning walk before returning to have a shower. We eat breakfast as a family. I then drive my children to school before heading to work,’’ says the lawyer-by-training.

At first, she loved being chauffeur-driven.

‘‘But my husband sold the Mercedes-Benz when he learnt I could drive and bought me a Toyota saloon. But we later sold it. Now I have a Mercedes Benz, it is stable and fast but I am not a fast driver,’’ she says.

She adds that Kenya is making strides in increasing the number of women in boardrooms but they should shed the ‘flower’ tag and assert themselves.

‘‘Believe me, elderly moneyed men are a waste of time for any young girl and we have to set pace for young girls to trust their instincts, intellect as well as ability to succeed in life. It is a wrong notion to impart a misplaced belief that women can only excel when assisted by men,’’ she says.

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