The first is the inspirational story of Teriano Lesancha, a young Maasai woman, who defied the social expectations and limitations of being a woman in a traditional Kenyan village and proved that diversity and inclusion are better for business and success, particularly where outdated attitudes impede progress.
From an early age Teriano strived at school and her success drove her to challenge the social norm and pursue further education. In a society where primary school education is a privilege and 99% of women do not receive an education at all, Teriano exceeded all expectations and aspirations to become the first person in her village to attend university.
Teriano’s commitment to not only her own personal development but to the development of the other girls in her community led her to set up the Super Maasai Women's Beadwork Cooperative to provide local women with an income and livelihood, independent of men. She also set up the Maasai Girls for Education Project to provide housing for young girls who have a two or three hour walk to reach their school. She is also working towards opening a secondary school.
Teriano has used her success and ambition to benefit her community, creating growth and sustainability in the local economy through her Beadwork initiative and has provided women in her community with the same opportunity of education which she had to fight for. This kind of inspiration should drive all of us to utilised the education which we take for granted and to push the boundaries imposed on us both in the work place and in society. This same ambition can be seen in Vera Di Palma, a pioneering and inspirational woman, who worked tirelessly to address the boundaries in the world of accounting.
Vera Di Palma, the first elected female president of the ACCA, sadly passed away in June. Vera was a champion for women in the accountancy world and worked hard to prove the value of women in a heavily male-dominated environment. Vera set up the Certified Accountants Women’s society in 1965 and used the society to create a network of female ACCA members to encourage the next generation of women to enter a career in accountancy. Vera opened the door for women in accountancy and her legacy lives on in the membership of nearly half of the ACCA. Her dedication and hard work was recognised in 1997 in an OBE for public service.
Inequality may seem an outdated concept but it remains prevalent. What Teriano did for her village in Africa, and Vera for the world of accountancy, highlights the barriers which women still face and must work to overcome. Perhaps the most valuable business message which we can take from these examples is that diversity and inclusion is better for business and success. The accounting landscape has changed dramatically over the past fifty years; however, there is still progress to be made. We should mentor the ambitious, inspire the talented and strive to change the corporate mind-set. Aspirations should not remain aspirations but should be nurtured to fruition, encouraging all those starting out to follow in the path to success. Vera was truly a pioneer for accountancy and I hope to see more women follow her example and fulfil her vision.