It is 7:15am on Monday morning and 25 year old Justine Mbabazi, dressed in a sharp blue suit, white top and black stilettos is just settling into her seat in Bank of Kigali’s card business office, ready for a busy week ahead.
Mbabazi, a graduate of financial engineering from Malaysia joined the Bank four months after returning from abroad, in October 2014; slightly over a year later, the young banker says she is glad she turned down several job offers for her current job with Rwanda’s leading bank.
“Working in an organization that has women in top executive positions is the best inspiration any woman could ever wish for,” said Mbabazi adding that her ambition is to become one of the many female managers at Bank of Kigali. Being a graduate of finance, Mbabazi doesn’t have to look far for inspiration. Her role models at the Bank include Ms. Nathalie Mpaka, Bank of Kigali’s Chief Financial Officer and Carine Umutoni the Head of Treasury and Trade Finance.
“I admire both of them a lot, they inspire me to work harder,” said Mbabazi who turned down a job in Malaysia to return to Rwanda after graduating. It is a decision that surprised some of her friends who chose to stay abroad. Breaking barriers As the world celebrates the international women’s day today, there are millions of women out there with dreams to make it big in a world that is still largely lopsided in favour of men.
But with institutions such as Bank of Kigali which give women a chance to occupy positions with decision making roles, the future is bright for young female professionals as cultural barriers get gradually broken. Cynthia Ingabire is a cashier who joined Bank of Kigali two years ago and says she is looking forward to a long successful career with dreams of occupying a managerial position at Rwanda’s leading financial institution whose mission is to financially transform people’s lives.
“I joined Bank of Kigali from another organization and all I can say is that I am lucky to be here. The daily interaction with women in top management is a constant reminder that being a woman is not a disadvantage but rather an opportunity,” said Ingabire.
In February, Bank of Kigali, Rwanda’s largest financial institution got a new Chief Executive Officer in Dr. Diane Karusisi to replace Dr. James Gatera whose decade long stay at the Bank will be among others praised for opening doors to female managers.
In his farewell speech, Gatera mentioned that he was extremely pleased to be succeeded by a woman at the Bank. “When we first introduced women in management, people couldn’t believe it, they had fears that the Bank would collapse but time has since proven them wrong,” said Gatera.
Supporting Government vision Shivon Byamukama, who holds a doctorate in Laws, is Bank of Kigali’s Company Secretary and Head of Corporate affairs; in an interview, she noted that her institution’s record on women is a true reflection of the Rwandan story.
“The vision of the government is to empower women to play a role in national development and as Bank of Kigali, we are simply making a contribution to that ambition,” says Dr. Byamukama adding that her institution is an equal opportunity employer.
According to Dr. Byamukama, Bank of Kigali is out to smash the long prevalent myth that women can’t do as well as women. “For instance, women account for 75 percent of Bank of Kigali’s executive management and 51 percent of the total number of employees, that is arguably the best record in the industry,” said Dr. Byamukama adding that there are no limitations on how far women can go.
Byamukama also talks of the need to give time to women to grow in their careers a factor she said is dependent on employer loyalty in its workforce.
“We have women that have served the Bank for over twenty years, joining as fresh graduates and growing professionally to serve as examples to younger employees,” said Byamukama of an organization that currently employs over 1200 people with 75 branches countrywide.
A good example of those long serving female employees is Yvonne Mumararungu who has worked with Bank of Kigali since 1996; she is currently Cashier Supervisor at the head office branch in Kigali. In an interview, Mumararungu said that after working with various organizations, she finally found her dream employer when she joined Bank of Kigali.
“Even back then, working for Bank of Kigali was such a prestigious thing and when I landed the job, I said my dream had come true,” she said. Twenty years later, Mumararungu goes about her job cheerfully, supervising young cashiers and making sure they serve with a smile to give customers a memorable time at the counter. “Anyone has dreams of a better life working for the Bank helps to fulfill your dreams; employees are helped to get facilities to achieve personal goals such as owning a home, further studies and many other benefits,” she said.