Barbara Mutoni, HR Director at African Entrepreneur Collective/Inkomoko, gives advice to young women looking to take up leadership roles

Barbara is currently a Human Resources Director at African Entrepreneur Collective/Inkomoko overseeing HR activities in Rwanda, Kenya, and Ethiopia. She has over 16 years experience in Human Resources with both International and local organizations. Prior to joining AEC, she was part of the HR Management team at Bralirwa Plc, part of the Heineken Company, serving as a Business Partner. She previously worked with World Vision International in Rwanda as the People & Culture Manager, KCB Bank as the Learning & Development Manager, as well as the then BPR Bank and PricewaterhouseCoopers as an HR Coordinator. Barbara is proud to have actively contributed to HR strategic initiatives within her employment journey, specifically around talent acquisition/development and HR digital transformation.

Barbara attained her first degree from Makerere University and has done postgraduate studies at Cornell University and Oklahoma Christian University. Throughout her career, she has been exposed to leadership development pathways and other opportunities that she believes have made her the leader she is today.

We find that many HR roles are predominantly held by women. What makes women uniquely skilled for this work? 

At AEC/Inkomoko, like in many other companies that I have worked with, we have always been intentional in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. With such a culture in place, I have experienced working with both females and males in the HR function. Personally, I know that anyone can work in HR but being good at HR is not only about the interest, experience, and education but also about one’s personality.

HR is not for the weak-hearted. Looking at the 360 of all the HR responsibilities, they require a select, unique set of skills, and not everyone is cut out for the job. Some of the key attributes include the ability to multitask, be organized, sympathize, have influencing skills, and have high emotional intelligence. Interestingly, most of the above skills are also common in females, not to sound biased but that could maybe be the reason why they dominate the HR function.


What advice would you give to young women who are entering or looking to take up leadership roles?

Here is my advice for young women who desire to become leaders in their life: Be authentic! Be you! You, too, can become a great leader!

The first need to become a leader is to lead yourself. Be organized, set out your plans, and ensure that you follow the right people that will influence you positively. I am a product of good mentorship – I would be selfish not to share that finding great mentors is helpful in this leadership journey. Find people who can challenge you and learn to take and appreciate feedback.

Second, play to your strengths. If, for example, you need to work on being perceived as more confident, work on it, seek opportunities to develop this. Learn continuously, especially by doing. It is okay to fail and learn from your mistakes. Do what you do better than anyone else does, challenge yourself and do not settle for average! Make sure you stand out, always!

Be proud of being a woman instead of feeling inferior. Respect yourself! Unless you respect yourself, others are not going to respect you. Most importantly, do not be silent about any bias, discrimination, and prejudice. Stand up for yourself when you know you are right (remaining respectful). Historically, women have faced prejudice and kept silent about it – when faced with such, seek advice or support.

We are in better times, where standing up for ourselves is being encouraged in most workplaces. Please do not ignore these calls and opportunities to speak up! For example, at AEC/Inkomoko, we all respect and value each other, irrespective of gender. We as women feel empowered and listened to. I hope all other organizations can prioritize having policies in place that enable women to thrive.

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