Business Daily’s Top 40 Under 40 women list; A flawed selection system

A past Top 40 under 40 Women advertisement
A past Top 40 under 40 Women advertisement
A past Top 40 under 40 Women advertisement


The Business Daily newspaper recently published this year’s list of ‘Top 40 women under 40′ as part of their annual series which seeks to recognize men and women who have made great accomplishments at a young age of 40 years and below.

This is a great initiative that enables us get a glimpse of personalities who have left their mark in their respective fields, sometimes with little recognition by the greater society, and who serve as role models to many Kenyan youth seeking to charter their own courses in life and strive to look beyond the beaten path in their quest to succeed in life.

When I got a copy of the paper and went through the list and profiles of the women listed, their journey into entrepreneurship, accomplishments and impact not only in their fields but also generally in society, I could not help but notice that the list was put together in a haphazard manner from the few applicants who had bothered to enter this year’s ‘Top 40 under 40 Women list’. There was clear lack of diversity and in-depth research into most of the women on the list as to what their exact accomplishments were beyond starting a business, which almost everyone nowadays is doing.

Being a manager in a certain organisation for a lady is not really an accomplishment unless you have redefined that role in your tenure making it an aspiration for other women e.g. succeeding in a male dominated field such as Engineering, Construction, Piloting etc.

Looking at the whole process of how the publication arrives at the list, one can tell that it is a highly subjective list which is not exhaustive thereby failing in its number one objective which is that of inspiring young women into certain positions. It instead celebrates mediocrity further downplaying the huge impact that women are having in the society especially in fields that were previously a preserve of the men folk.

There are so many women who have made actual accomplishments that failed to make it to that list due to the very nature of the process of selection. The current selection process that relies purely on nomination is flawed as there are women who are very humble about their accomplishments and the others who do not read the publication or know when this selection process starts thus missing out.

In order to come up with a comprehensive list that focuses on expert opinion and recommendations from those with industry insights, the selection process needs to move away from a nomination process that wholly relies on the nominees choice as in most cases, women nominate themselves or are nominated by their friends.

There is need for more in depth research into achievements that go beyond mundane things like ‘helping clients identify fake beauty products or merely being the founder of My Dress My choice organisation as some of the accomplishments read. (I was actually surprised that such an organisation existed, knowing very well that the #MyDressMyChoice movement was started by Kilimani Mums, but that’s a story for another day). This is research which can be done entirely online, as most businesses have a web presence nowadays and doing a bit of digging through the milestones shared on the respective social media platforms owned by these organisations/firms.

Extensive consultations with industry experts in the various nomination categories can also help get a more realistic list based on more than a self-sense of importance & achievement.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, this is an important list to have and its importance and impact in inspiring the next generation of career women needs to be felt in every annual publication. This cannot be achieved when we set such low standards on the list without thoroughly vetting all applicants and actually listing those that most deserve to be on it



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  1. bankelele Reply

    Yes it’s a flawed system in that it relies on people to nominate themselves or to get nominated by others to be considered. And there are many women who may be more deserving but are not on the list as they were not nominated.

    But this is not just a problem for the top40under40. There are many people who should be on this list or on list of the Top100 companies, top100 richest Kenyans/Africans etc – but they don’t want or need or desire the publicity. If a magazine or contest approached them, they’d probably decline to participate or be included.

  2. Brian Reply

    You’re probably right, this is probably a flawed nomination system for example, i didn’t know these ladies nominate themselves. That’s an already idiotic proposition there. Its just the top 40 most ego-positive ladies in the country. lol. But that said though, its a start. True, the nomination process should be seen to get better as time goes by but again, its a start. Most of the women I’ve seen on the various iterations of that list are doing great things, that not only inspire other young women growing up but also making it easier for those women in the future, so lets not harp on about the negatives and maybe come up with a list of people you felt missed out….i think that would be more progressive than making it seem like a big chunk of those 40 women aren’t there by your seemingly high meritous standards.

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