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At Penda Health, career paths are open for everyone

When Finnfund assesses the gender equality in the portfolio companies, Penda Health always stands out: nearly 70% of their staff are women. Women can be found at all levels in the organisation, from support staff to board of directors. Half of their management team are women. The CEO is female. Is this all a coincidence?

“Definitely not”, says Monica Dey, Global Partnerships Manager at Penda. “Gender thinking cuts across all our work. It was intentional from day one to have women in leadership positions, because our main target group are women and families. Who knows the needs of a woman better than another woman?”

Women creating services for women

Penda Health runs 17 medical centers in Nairobi and their mission is to make quality healthcare available and accessible near their customers. The company was established in 2012 to be women-focused, offering services such as family planning and antenatal care.

Today, 60-70% of patients are women, many of whom are mothers with babies. Women also often decide where the family gets their healthcare services from and share their good experiences and recommendations with their friends.

Many female staff members have gone through an impressive career path: someone started as a receptionist, worked her way up and now works as a manager. Another came in as a Clinical Officer and is now the Area Manager responsible for several medical centers. It seems that women are encouraged to reach higher at Penda?

“Penda has a big focus on mentorship and training”, Dey says. “We prefer internal promotions and we always encourage people to apply for higher positions and provide additional training when needed.”

Raise your voice

The company is determined to create a culture that is all about feedback and sharing your thoughts.

“This has been especially impactful on women as many of them have not felt comfortable expressing their opinions before. Penda encourages them to take more ownership or leadership of their work”, says Dey. “This is not very common at workplaces in Nairobi, and raising your voice as a woman can feel uncomfortable at first. But soon enough, you become more outspoken.”

Ensuring that there are women in managerial positions is also a sign of a customer-oriented approach: the services provided often target female customers. Creating female role models also has an effect on staff turnover and employee satisfaction. Even though medical staff – often women –  would have career options elsewhere in the city, they stay longer because of good future prospects. This is, of course, good for the business.

“We conduct a staff satisfaction and happiness survey twice a year”, says Dey. According to the most recent survey, 80% of the Penda team would recommend Penda as an employer, and 90% of people love their jobs. Many note that there are “numerous opportunities for growth and skill building” and that Penda “cares so much about its staff and their families.”

Country: Kenya
Sector: Health care
Year of Finnfund’s investment: 2018

Esther Mwikali joined Penda Health in 2015 with previous experience from a hospital in Nairobi. “I was looking for something different, I wanted to reach more people in the community”, she says. At that time, Penda was more like a startup company. The second medical center had just opened in Umoja and Mwikali started there as a Clinical Officer.

Only two months later, she was offered a position as Senior Clinical Officer coordinating the team. “I was still learning Penda”, she says. “My manager simply told me that they thought I had what was needed to lead the team and I was really excited, even though I had no previous leadership experience.”

Read more about Esther Mwikali’s journey in Penda Health >>

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Looking for win-wins

Penda has recently invested in developing digital healthcare. This, too, serves both employees and customers: remote work is especially valuable to new mothers and, at the moment, all others too during the pandemic. Also customers can contact the medical center digitally.

“We are excited to see how this affects the employee and customer satisfaction”, says Dey. “It really is a win-win if we can introduce ways of working that benefits everybody.”


Read more about our health care investments

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Finnfund invests in improving women’s access to critical health products in East Africa (news)