By Harold Ayodo
A whistle may have been blown for modern women to invest in diverse securities in droves.
It was rare to meet women trading at the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) between the 9.30am to 3pm official hours. Today, they confidently stride into the main trading floor on Nairobi’s Kimathi Street to keep abreast of their investments.
For starters, the NSE is the fourth largest stock exchange in terms of trading volumes and fifth in market capitalisation.
Separately, registered real estate firms are unanimous that women are among their increased clients over the past five years.
According to the players, most female clients in their mid 30s and above are buying apartments in upmarket areas.
Take the case of Peninah Muthoni, 37, who lives in a three-bedroomed apartment in Kilimani, off Ngong Road.
"I started by buying shares in Initial Public Offers before I became a regular trader at the NSE five years ago," Peninah says.
According to the Masters in Business Administration graduate, she avoided permanent jobs arguing freelance jobs did the trick.
"I could consult for three firms at a go and put the money in the stock exchange before buying my apartment at Sh14 million," she says.
Tysons Limited Marketing Assistant Dan Arum, says Muthoni is not alone in investing in residential real estate.
"Women clients have bought homes in Kilimani, Riverside Drive and Westlands where prices range from Sh14 million to Sh18 million," Arum says.
He says the women are, however, particular in the type of apartments, saying they insist to sample many before making a choice.
"We understand them and are patient as they eventually pay in either cash or a mortgage arrangement with financiers," Arum says.
For Natasha Mueni, 36, the NSE is her surest way of having a ‘side hustle’ (side job) without affecting her profession in Information Technology.
"I can keep track of trading online and know whether to sell my shares or not," Natasha says.
Fortunately, the law provides that single women can own property even after marriage unless they resolve to enjoin their spouses as joint owners.
Furthermore, the Law of Succession Act, which deals with inheritance, provides that women can write wills detailing how their property will be shared upon death.
As an increasing number of investments, their counterparts in the corporate world say they set the pace decades ago.
For instance, Kenya Tourist Federation chief executive officer Agatha Juma says Annual General Meetings (AGMs) of corporates speak volumes.
"Women form majority of shareholders present in AGMs meaning we are active shareholders," Agatha says.
According to her, the modern woman who is highly educated and economically empowered knows how and where to invest.
"The modern woman does not believe in handouts. Empowering a woman even in the village elicits visible changes," Agatha says.
Gamewatchers Commercial Director Mohanjeet Brar and Leisure and Travel Guide East Africa Director Nev Jiwani concur with Agatha.
"Increased number of women investors in diverse securities is a pointer that society has changed," Dr Brar says.
He says women have more value to add in the economy than sit at home.
According to Nev, women today have shed off their traditional roles in the kitchen and are risk takers.
"Investments are positive regardless of gender. Women are no longer taking the back seat but have embraced investments," Nev says.
Women economic empowerment activists like Caroline Ogot says women have every right to invest in property and buy shares from their incomes.
"Many modern women watched their mothers suffer silently following their inability to access and control property, especially land," Caroline says.
According to Caroline, technology, education, awareness and exposure has changed the perspective of the modern woman to progress and get updated every day.
"Women should jump at every opportunity to invest in assets—property and shares for future security whether married or not," Caroline says.
She says it is wrong for society to ridicule a modern woman making her shy away from investing in property and shares, while terming it as a preserve of men.
Financial experts say more professional women jumped into the securities bandwagon after Stella Kilonzo was appointed the Capital Markets Authority CEO two years ago.
Stella is a member of the National Economic and Social Council of Kenya—an advisory body of eminent persons to the President and the Cabinet on economic and social policy.
Agatha says women started investing heavily in company shares, stocks and real estate over a decade ago but were never publicised.
Investment consultants concur that Keroche Breweries CEO Tabitha Karanja is among the leading role models for prospective women investors.
The founder of Centonomy Ltd, a personal financial consultancy and training firm, Waceke Omanga attributes the influx of female investors to several factors.
According to the personal financial planner, women over 35 years old are undergoing a different stage in life.
"There is an increased awareness of the importance of savings and investment as career women seek stability and better financial planning," Waceke says.
She says more working women are joining professional investment groups targeting wealth creation.
"Well structured investment groups access investments and returns that you may not access easily as an individual," Waceke says.
As more women occupy spaces in boardrooms of blue chip companies with six figure salaries, financial experts urge caution.
"Women should identify their financial goals, manage their money and understand implications of debt and maximise on investments," Waceke says.
Plan their money
It is for these reasons that career women flock "The Centsible Woman" monthly programmes by Centonomy Ltd in Nairobi.
"We teach women how to plan their money better and go through various types of investments exhaustively," Waceke says.
However, some career women still believe financial planning would make them lose control of their finances or forgo their luxuries.
"Financial planning is about creating a roadmap to comfortably enjoy life in future by incorporating what you value," Waceke says.
For instance, if spending time with your family by going on holiday once a year is important, it will be incorporated into the plan.
"When the time comes to holiday, you are not taking unnecessary debt to do it...you will also have catered for dreams to buy a retirement house comfortably," Waceke says.
Financial Advisor Edward Aseda attributes the thirst for investment amongst professional women to increased awareness.
"They are seeking various investment vehicles to achieve their objectives while a few are driven by naivety based on rumours," Aseda says.
Aseda who is also an entrepreneur, says women who invest blindly often burn their fingers in the first stages before making better financial decisions in future.
He argues that increased responsibilities following changes in socio-cultural setups have put pressure on the woman leading to investment options.
"The single mother, widow, divorcee and woman in a dysfunctional family all have a common goal of providing for their loved ones," Aseda says.
He says the Government and international initiatives to empower women have contributed immensely in civic education and financial assistance.
"Education has influenced women participation in matters of development and key decision making," Aseda says.
The new constitution also creates opportunities for woman—the whistle may have just been blown for more women to join the race.