It is women’s month and tomorrow, March 8 is Women’s Day. This is when we celebrate womanhood. In this competitive world full of all manner of demands, this month, we seek to celebrate women who are excelling and are motivating the same level of excellence in us.
What better place to start than in the banking sector. This week, we bring you Peace A Kabunga, the executive director of Housing Finance Bank. She opens up about her banking career over the years, her challenges and how she managed to get to the top.
Tell us about yourself
I am a mother and a wife. I love people. I love God and I am passionate about spending time with the youth because they are not only a source of information and knowledge but also challenge us to create a better world.
I am passionate about money matters and I am a financial literacy trainer. I am a professional accountant who has crafted out an experience in sales, relationship management, credit and Finance.
With experience in the field of credit/loan management, specifically mortgages, term loans, vehicle and asset finance, unsecured salary loans, sales and client relationship management in different local and international financial institutions, I can comfortably say I have made a contribution in fields of personal and business banking.
Do women in your profession find it hard to get promoted?
Not at all.
From my experience, commitment, hardwork and the confidence in God are good requisites for success.
I have not reached the epitome success yet but I cannot say that I have experienced a situation where one has found hard time to get promoted because she is a woman.
I have seen many situations though, where women have been promoted because they have worked and earned it.
Times are evolving for the better as far as a woman in the workplace is concerned. This is something that I attribute to concerted efforts from both the women and men that believe and emulate the different roles that we each play together, to make the world a better place. This applies at the workplace, at home and society.
Can you perform your duties and maintain your femininity?
I am an example of that. I love what I do and I do it effortlessly. I am blessed to have a team of colleagues who are very supportive. I have also been lucky to have mentors that have shaped my path through the years.
I was also luckily moulded into the person that I am today by my parents, family and a strong social support system. So all these have helped in ensuring that I strike a balance between work and maintaining feminity.
Our world views shape us to be or exist in a particular way and fortunately for me, my world views about work and still being the person that I wish to be have accommodated everything.
As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career?
Fear of failure and perfectionism. Whenever opportunities present themselves, I look at what I do not have rather than what I have to do the job.
I am learning to appreciate what I have and I trust that with God’s guidance, hardwork and commitment, everything eventually falls to place.
What is the biggest factor that has helped you be successful?
One of them is my trust in God.
This trust helps me to know that it is not about me giving my best at all that I do but also to allow myself to be vulnerable and remain open to learning new things and getting better each day.
Also, support from family-my husband, children, parents, siblings has played a huge part in my success journey.
What was your sector culture like 10 years ago for women and working mothers? Do you feel the sector has made strides towards supporting women?
The culture 10 years ago was more conservative than it is today. The systems, structures and society was less supportive of the role of women then. The sector has made tremendous effort towards improving the status of women. We are seeing more women rise up in leadership positions.
At Housing Finance Bank, we have more women at the top and across other functional structures. We have also made the working environment more accommodative for the women/ working and nursing mothers.
We have designated a maternity room to allow the freedom, balance and environment for women to comfortably exist at the workplace.
We recognise and appreciate that a happy mother and wife makes a great employee and we continue to raise the bar in ensuring a safe, lively, convenient, and accommodative environment for all women.
How do you balance being a mother, a wife and undertaking top managerial roles? What have you sacrificed both personally and professionally at each stage of your career?
This is a tough one. In fact, I do not want to call it a balance but rather work-life integration. As women, we are gifted with the ability to multitask.
But even then, we eventually learn to prioritise. Prioritising has helped me manage so much across varying fronts. According to Ecclesiastics 3; there is a time for everything and season for every activity under the heavens. I try to handle one thing at a time. Even when I have to multitask, I try to accord specific time to specific roles.
It is important to strike that work-life integration across responsibilities because we need it, even when it is difficult sometimes.
The temptation to juggle the two tasks at the same time is irresistible and sometimes we take off time to look at our emails and follow up on work here and there or take time off to call and find out how the children are doing but above all, if it is time for work, I try as much as I can to focus more on work and if it is time to be with the family, I just do that.
Of course in any journey, sacrifices are inevitable. For me, time with family is what I have had to sacrifice. It is every mother and wife’s wish to spend as much time with their loved ones as possible. The truth though is that, that time is never enough.
Even when you commit to spend a whole day, weeks, months, years nurturing your children and attending to your home, it can never be enough. However, we always try to make interventions and manage across all fronts.
What would you say to afresh graduate, holding a ‘what next’ placard at a junction in town?
Trust and faith in God is key. Believe in oneself because that is key in crafting out a path. Graduating is completion of a phase in one’s career path.
Believe that every skill acquired along this experience can be utilised to get better and craft out a livelihood. Do not be afraid to start small, any step can be an open door to achieving unimaginable goals. Work hard and never give up.
No matter how challenging it seems, remain focused on the end goal. Be patient, consistent, and passionate about everything you do. It gets better eventually.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I am inspired by success stories. I am inspired by people who bring their all to make situations better. I also love the joy and lessons that we pick from our children as we nurture them.
The challenge picked from a child’s conversation, experience or interaction can be the most innovative idea for the future. Experiencing life across different angles and ages is an inspiration altogether.
Who would you say are your role models/mentors and why? How important are they in work and life in general?
My mother, who unfortunately passed on in 2015 was my number one role model. She was a hardworking woman, God-fearing, focused and an authentic leader, who never accommodated mediocrity.
I have many other women whom I consider as my role models, some in Uganda and others at the international platform such as the former chief executive officer and chairman, PEPSICO because of her authenticity and excellence that saw her rise through the ranks within a short time.
What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders. What advice do you share with young women entering a male-dominated profession?
I would say, wear “confidence” everyday. Believe in yourself that you can reach any goal and achieve any target that you set your mind on
No matter the tide, do not give up. Above all, fear, respect and value God through all the days of your life.
What do you do when you are not working?
I spend time with family and read books. This year, I have read The Five Levels of Leadership, How high will you climb? Winning the Barcelona way, Crucial Conversations and Who will cry when you die? A leader without a title. I also do some community work at church and other places within my community.
How do you stay healthy?
I mind my eating habits and I maintain a balanced diet. I take plenty of fruits and keep hydrated.
I also try as much as I can to avoid starchy foods for dinner. I try to get enough sleep- at least six hours everyday and do a 15-20 minutes workout daily.
Are there projects you have spearheaded that improved the plight of women in Uganda?
I am currently mentoring a group of women and on several occasions, I have been invited to speak to groups of women on topics such as investment and financial management, career, personal branding, among others. In my view, improving the plight of women is a daily responsibility for each and every one each one of us. We must make deliberately efforts to uplift other women who are in less privileged positions.
What should women do today to pull ahead of competition?
Having a good support system such as family and friends can be a very good start. We sometimes can have so much on our plate that being everywhere at a specific point in time may prove to be a challenge. Having a reliable shoulder to lean on, gives women the peace of mind to focus on their assignments. Women must have the desire to obtain new skills to remain competitive. Finally, as women, we must invest in personal and professional development. Also choose the right people to direct your paths. Competition will always be there, but staying focused despite distractions is key.