The Power Of Unifi’s Female-Led Workforce

Gender equality has long been a priority in Africa in the face of systemic gender-based violence and discrimination. One of the places where this challenge is most prevalent is in the workplace. According to the OECD’s SIGI 2021 Regional Report for Africa, the labour force participation rate in African countries was 20% lower for women than for men, reinforced by discriminatory social norms that relegate women to reproductive and care roles.

“Africa has made real progress, but there’s still a pressing need for industries to rethink how they accommodate female professionals and how they can best make them feel welcome and part of a team,” explains Lillian Bwalya, COO of Unifi Zambia.

Unifi, a microfinance company operating across East Africa, has done more than make room for women – Women occupy 80% of their roles.

“Since our inception in 2006, our workforce grew organically to be predominantly women. Our foundations are built on the outstanding, local female talent we employed from the start, and it’s set the tone for the way forward. While many corporate companies adopt a more masculine brand personality, our character is proudly female. Just like some of the best world leaders today are female, we know the women of Unifi are the driving force behind our future as a company,” says Unifi Africa CEO, Michiel le Roux.

Empathy goes a long way

It’s said that one of the things that makes women such great leaders, is their natural ability to empathise. In an industry where customers face stressful financial situations, and one in which lenders are often seen as unsympathetic or even predatory, Unifi is known for the dignity and empathy with which it treats its customers and employees.

“Women have that unique combination of strength and compassion that really helps people to grow and be uplifted, and that also allows women to get things done and move businesses forward,” Stephné de Villiers, Marketing Manager at Unifi Africa says.

The opportunity to grow and succeed

Despite gains that have been made over the years, there are still major discrepancies in the attitudes toward women in the workplace and cultural assumptions regarding their responsibilities. It’s therefore up to workplaces themselves to facilitate the changes we want to see.

When in a space that provides equal opportunities, women are empowered to become leading professionals in their respective fields. They can achieve personal goals and take active control of their futures. When surrounded by women who are themselves succeeding and inspiring others to do the same, the effect of those opportunities is compounded.

Martha Walusimbi, Head of Operations at Unifi Uganda, says she’s proud to work at a company where women are put first and are present at middle and senior management levels. “I love that women come in and join the company while they’re very young and see themselves grow, and that there are women already up ahead on that journey who show them the way and are inspiring them daily,” she adds.

Inspiring the next generation of leaders

Tinky Naidu, Internal Operations Manager at Unifi Zambia, encourages women to seize opportunities so they can lead successfully and authentically. “My advice to women who want to take on a leadership role at any business is to be confident, to know your worth, and to believe in your skills and abilities,” she says.

Click here to hear more stories of female professionals and leaders at Unifi. To find out more about how you can join the Unifi team, visit

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