“We can all be heroes in our own capacities, in our own environments, to the people that we interact with on a daily basis” – Phionah Nahabwe, Coca-Cola Uganda.

International Women’s Day on March 8th is a day to recognize and celebrate the empowerment of women around the world. This year, there is a strong call to motivate and unite families, friends and communities in striving for gender parity as part of the 2018 theme – #PressforProgress.

Over the past couple of years, The Coca-Cola Company has deliberately spearheaded the issue of Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality in the workplace and currently, women account for 32% of senior leadership roles and the number of women in mid-level management has risen to 36%.

Uganda is no exception. The Coca-Cola Uganda office is an all-female workforce, who are responsible for holding this highly competitive market together. Below, are highlights from a conversation with Maggie (Marketing Manager for Uganda, Ethiopia and the HORN markets), Flavia (Franchise Manager for Uganda), Phionah (Marketing and Administration Assistant) and Miriam (Franchise Brand Manager for Uganda) during which they discuss their experiences at Coca-Cola and what drives them.

1.       When did you join Coca-Cola and briefly describe your experience working at Coca-Cola Uganda.

Maggie: I joined Coca-Cola in 2009 as a Brand Manager here in Uganda. Working at Coca-Cola has been a learning experience. Coca-Cola is a very fast-paced company so we spend our days making real time and calculated decisions that are necessary to maintain our number one position. We lead in innovation and are therefore always looking for new insights and opportunities from our consumers. My experience has been very exciting – never a dull moment and I wake up every morning looking forward to that day’s challenge.

Flavia: Ummmm (laughs) wow. I’ll be six years at the Company in November. I recently returned to Uganda from Tanzania where I was for almost two and a half years and these are opportunities you don’t just get in any company local or international. I have met so many hardworking and fun people, made friends and made so many fantastic memories. Here at Coke, if you are ready to adventure, opportunities are available for you.

Phionah: I’ve been at Coke for so many years – I think I am past a decade now! (laughs). I joined in 2007 in August. Uniquely though, this was my first job so it has been a very good experience with so many things to learn. I have been trained to be a better person both professionally and personally because of the good start that I have had at this company.

Miriam: I have been in Coca-Cola for 6 years and during this time, Coca-Cola has taken me to so many places. It has been fun and exciting and has really opened up my world to many new experiences.

Because of this job, I have interacted with so many international celebrities and people who have done such great work globally.

Miriam Limo – Franchise Brand Manager for Uganda

2.       Many companies still prioritize male over female employees in leadership roles. How does Coca-Cola differ from this narrative?

Maggie: I really applaud Coca-Cola for giving opportunities to women to fill up places of leadership. All of us in this office are leaders – we lead franchises, regions and markets; and this is an opportunity Coca-Cola has accorded us. We are seeing more of that happening even outside Uganda where we have women GMs and women directors. Therefore, Coca-Cola is one of those few companies that gives ladies an opportunity to lead.

Flavia: It is obvious that we have our own personalities as women and these influence the way we handle issues and make decisions. This however, does not portray weakness and Coca-Cola is very cognizant of that. Additionally, Coca-Cola is intentional about female empowerment to the point that it goes beyond just hiring and makes sure there are actual programs aimed at bettering the lives of women.

Phionah: Global brands such as Coca-Cola come with a lot of work, targets and pressure and these do not change for male or female employees. However, Coca-Cola has groomed female employees to always be prepared and focused. As a woman, it is not just work that you have to deal with – you have your children, your family, your spouse and many other pressures that you cannot allow to affect your work.

Miriam: Here, we always say – Only Coke can give you the kind of life: because of the opportunities that working here provides. For example, Coca-Cola is very aware that women have a lot of other things that they need to balance aside from work, such as family and has therefore put in place a very good flexible policy that gives an opportunity to be home while also delivering on your work. Here in Uganda, no one has had a problem with the fact that our team is fully made up of women, and the same applies globally.

Flavia Mbabazi – Franchise Manager for Uganda

3.       What keeps you focused in your career and your life outside of Coca-Cola?

Maggie:  For me it is my family. I have three children so watching them grow each and every day and seeing them become the people that they are or that I want them to become really makes me happy. But also, doing a job that fulfils me and doesn’t bore me makes me happy. I love challenges and I am quite excitable; so a boring job wouldn’t be for me.

Flavia: My dad and his belief in me; first of all as his daughter, then as a woman being my main driving force. He has always reminded me that I can be what I want to be.

Phionah: Well, first of all, the fact that I am alive. It means that there is something out there that I need to accomplish, someone out there still needs me. And of course as a mother, I have two little girls who look up to me and being there for them in every way that I can is a driving force for me. Let me also just add that I am generally a happy person and a strong believer in making your own fate. I believe nothing should determine anyone’s state of happiness. Bring joy to your own life and do not let anything determine your happiness.

Miriam: Over the years, I have had a couple of mentors and people who have believed in me. The strongest is a lady who was my professor in University – she has always kept me accountable and reminded me of my goals. There is also a Franchise Director from my previous deployment, Josephine, who taught me how to be very organized in my thinking and my work. There is our current GM and many other ladies. Seeing these ladies balance their careers with families showed me that there is so much more I can do if I stay focused.

Phionah Nahabwe – Marketing and Administration Assistant

4.       So, what advice do you have for the women out there?

Maggie: I think the most important thing is to know your worth. As women, many times we underestimate ourselves – we feel inferior and don’t think we are as good as men. Know your worth and do not settle for anything less. Secondly, set goals and do not back down – whether it’s family or your career, do not compromise while trying to achieve these goals. Also, remember your principles. Eventually, you will be known as someone of principle or someone with integrity and you will feel proud to know that you stood by your principles whatever situation you were in.

Flavia: Believe in yourself and know who you truly are. Nobody will tell you who you are so believe in yourself and know that you have what it takes. I also want to encourage women to look out for fellow women – nothing is as hurtful as a woman being destructive to another woman’s life or career. Let us work together to motivate and help young girls and fellow women develop confidence in themselves.

Phionah: There is no formula to making it in life – you can start at any time as long as you are focused and know what you want. We can all be heroes in our own capacities, in our own environments, to the people that we interact with on a daily basis. So, it doesn’t matter where you are, where you work or whom you meet, do something you love and you will get joy and satisfaction from it.

Miriam: In everything that you do, you have to know what you want to achieve and then work tirelessly towards it. Always be open to feedback and keep growing – do not be complacent and do not be satisfied until you get there. Also, always make sure you keep your life balanced – it is not just about work so do not lose your mind and your health chasing a career. Live life to the fullest.

Maggie Kigozi – Marketing Manager for Uganda, Ethiopia and the HORN markets

About

Maggie Kigozi – Marketing Manager for Uganda, Ethiopia and the HORN markets

Maggie joined Coca-Cola in 2009 as a brand manager and then moved on to Kenya to work as a Senior Brand Manager for the flavors category. She finally moved back to Uganda to take on the role of Marketing Manager. Maggie is also a wife and mother of 3 lovely children.

Flavia Mbabazi – Franchise Manager for Uganda

Flavia joined the company in 2011 as Operations Marketing Manager and later moved to Tanzania as Franchise Manager Tanzania and is currently working as Franchise Manager Uganda. She is also a wife and mother of 2 amazing sons.

Phionah Nahabwe – Marketing and Administration Assistant

Phionah joined Coca-Cola in 2007. It was her first job and she has successfully worked with a number of Brand and Marketing Managers to support their needs. Phionah is also a wife and a mother of two adorable daughters.

Miriam Limo – Franchise Brand Manager for Uganda

Miriam joined in 2012 as Assistant Brand manager in Mid Africa and Horn Territory. In her current role in Uganda, she is responsible for the execution of the business agenda, leading the Innovation projects and other marketing operations in Uganda. She is the latest entrant into the all-female workforce at Coca-Cola Uganda. Miriam enjoys spending time with her family- a tight knit group of seven including her nephew and niece.