Mary Wamae: Traveled For The First To Nairobi To Join University, Now At The Top Of Equity 

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Mary Wamae: Traveled For The First To Nairobi To Join University, Now At The Top Of Equity 
Mary Wamae/Photocredit | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Long gone are the days when appointments of certain key positions were based on gender. More and more women in Kenya are now on the steering seat of blue chip companies/or seat on their boards. The story of Mary Wangari Wamae, the Executive Director of Equity Group Holdings, is testimony to this. 

Here is her illustrious career journey as told by WoK.

Background

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Mary Wangari Wamae-or simply Mary Wamae-was born and raised in Nyeri County. She was raised by a single mother who practiced farming to fend for her two daughters and four sons. In an interview on Business Daily, Wamae told Jackson Biko that life growing up was a big struggle:

My mom was a single mother. I have five siblings; one sister and four brothers. So you can imagine what a challenge it was for a single mother who had no fixed income. Unfortunately, we lost her in 2017.

She taught us to stand on our own. She was also very prayerful. We are Catholics. She always said prayer will get you through a lot of the issues.

Education

The first time Mary Wamae traveled to Nairobi is when she was joining university. Her mother always reminded her on the importance of hardwork if she wanted to leave the village. 

“I did not leave my village until I came to university. My mother was a peasant farmer in Nyeri. And she would tell me, ‘Mary, you have to work very hard for you to get yourself out of this village.’

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I was driven by that need to break away from the village and give a good account of myself. My mom stressed integrity and hard work and that set a very strong foundation for me in life,” she told BD.

She attended the University of Nairobi in 1987 where she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in law. She then joined the Kenya School of Law in 1990 for a Postgraduate Diploma in Law before being admitted to the bar as an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. In 2003, she earned a Master of Arts in Gender and Development Studies from the same institution. In 2014 she received a Master’s Degree in Leadership, Innovation and Change from York St John University in Nottingham, United Kingdom (UK). She then received an AMP Education award from the Harvard Business School. She is a graduate of the Advanced Management Program (Strathmore – IESE Business School, Barcelona Spain).

Career Journey

She began her career journey as a partner at ‘Mary Wangari & Company Advocates’ which she had established. In September 2004 she joined Equity Building Society (now Equity Bank) as the head of Legal Services. A year later she was promoted to become Company Secretary and Company Secretary and in 2012 she became Group Company Secretary, Director of Corporate Strategy and Legal Services. In 2014, she rose to become the Group Director of Strategy, Legal Services & Group Company Secretary, a position she held until April 2018 when she was appointed to become the Group Executive Director.

“We are recognizing the structure in line with the Group’s growth as reflected in the capital base, asset based and client base in response to the funding and infrastructure capability as well as to reposition ourselves for opportunities that will open up from the anticipated growth locally and in the region,” read a statement from CEO James Mwangi following the appointment.

Success

In 2021, Mary Wamae won the 2021 Women on Board Award held by Women On Board Network (WOBN). She was recognized for her efforts in demonstrating purpose, resilience, authenticity, innovation and sustainable contribution in social-impact and economic activities within Equity Group Holdings. This award followed just a year after she pioneered the launch of Equity Inspire Program (EQUIP) – a program that seeks to empower the Equity staff to advance in careers and social lives.

Personal Life

She got divorced in 2018 and terms that period as the most ‘fearful’ in her life. She told BD that she wouldn’t mind getting into another relationship although it isn’t easy given her position.

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