Pathways to Political Empowerment: An Examination of Factors That Enable Women to Access Political Leadership Positions in Kenya

  • Lanoi Maloiy
Part of the Gender, Development and Social Change book series (GDSC)


The factors that help Kenyan women to attain leadership positions have been understudied. This study aims to investigate the factors that enabled 18 female political leaders to emerge as leaders. Factors that this study explores include family background of leadership and personality traits such as self-confidence and resilience. This study employs a feminist methodology that aims at providing female participants with a voice while seeking to understand the emergence of Kenyan women political leaders. This is in keeping with the principles of feminist research, which aim at creating knowledge of women’s experiences and addressing gender inequalities in society. The study uses interview data and desk review as part of the tools of feminist research. It links to Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which examines gender inequality in society and seeks to empower girls and women in society through an understanding of the factors that help women in Kenya emerge as leaders.


  1. Anderson, N. F. (1993). Benazir Bhutto and Dynastic Politics: Her Father’s Daughter, Her People’s Sister. In M. A. Genovese (Ed.), Women as National Leaders (pp. 41–69). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  2. Aycan, Z. (2004). Key Success Factors for Women in Management in Turkey. Applied Psychology, 53(3), 453–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brayton, J. (n.d.). What Makes Feminist Research Feminist? The Structure of Feminist Research within the Social Sciences. Retrieved from
  4. Chua-Eoan, H. G. (1990). All in the Family. Time Special Issue, Women: The Road Ahead, pp. 33–34.Google Scholar
  5. Daly, M. (2000). Feminist Research Methodology: The Case of Ireland. In A. Byrne & R. Lentin (Eds.), (Re)searching Women: Feminist Research Methodologies in the Social Science in Ireland (pp. 60–72). Dublin: Institute of Public Administration.Google Scholar
  6. Doubell, M. (2011). Factors Contributing to the Success of Professional and Business Women in South Africa (Doctor of Philosophy). Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa.Google Scholar
  7. Doubell, M., & Struwig, M. (2014). Perceptions of Factors Influencing the Career Success of Professional and Business Women in South Africa. South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences, 17(5), 531–543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Everett, J. (1993). Indira Gandhi and the Exercise of Power. In M. A. Genovese (Ed.), Women as National Leaders (pp. 103–134). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  9. Fonow, M. M., & Cook, J. A. (1990). Knowledge and Women’s Interests: Issues of Epistemology and Methodology in Feminist Sociological Research. In J. M. Nielsen (Ed.), Feminist Research Methods: Exemplary Readings in the Social Sciences (pp. 69–93). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  10. Fox, S., & Gregory, A. (2006). Personality, Management/Leadership Styles and Views on Great Leadership. In B. J. Punnett (Ed.), Successful Professional Women of the Americas: From Polar Winds to Tropical Breezes (pp. 97–113). Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  11. Gomez, M. J., Fassinger, R. E., Prosser, J., Cooke, K., Mejia, B., & Luna, J. (2001). Voces abriendo caminos (Voices Foraging Paths): A Qualitative Study of the Career Development of Notable Latinas. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 48(3), 286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Guest, G., Bunce, A., & Johnson, L. (2006). How Many Interviews Are Enough? An Experiment with Data Saturation and Variability. Field methods, 18(1), 59–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Haack, K. (2014). Gaining Access to the “World’s Largest Men’s Club”: Women Leading UN Agencies. Global Society, 28(2), 217–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Harden, B. (1990). Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent. London: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  15. Jalalzai, F. (2004). Women Political Leaders: Past and Present. Women & Politics, 26(3–4), 85–108.Google Scholar
  16. Jalalzai, F. (2010). Madam President: Gender, Power, and the Comparative Presidency. Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, 31(2), 132–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jalalzai, F. (2013). Shattered, Cracked, or Firmly Intact?: Women and the Executive Glass Ceiling Worldwide. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kamau, N. (2010). Women and Political Leadership in Kenya (pp. 1–92). Retrieved from
  19. Keown, C. F., & Keown, A. L. (1982). Success Factors for Corporate Woman Executives. Group & Organization Management, 7(4), 445–456.Google Scholar
  20. Kuada, J. (2010). Culture and leadership in Africa: a conceptual model and research agenda. African Journal of Economic and Management Studies, 1(1), 9–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Madsen, S. R. (2008). On Becoming a Woman Leader: Learning from the Experiences of University Presidents (1st ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  22. Mathew, M. P. (2009). The Role of Resilience in the Development and Practice of Leadership: A Hermeneutic Phenomenological Inquiry into the Life of Viktor Frankl (Doctor of University). Gonzaga University.Google Scholar
  23. Mbigi, L. (2005). Spirit of African Leadership. Randburg: Knowres Publishing.Google Scholar
  24. Miller, D., & MacIntosh, R. (1999). Promoting Resilience in Urban African American Adolescents: Racial Socialization and Identity as Protective Factors. Social Work Research, 23(3), 159–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Moshupi, M. M. (2013). Career Development Experiences of Women in Senior Leadership Positions within Civil Engineering Industry (Masters of Arts). University of South Africa.Google Scholar
  26. Njoh, A. J. (2006). Tradition, Culture and Development in Africa: Historical Lessons for Modern Development Planning. Aldershot, UK and Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing.Google Scholar
  27. Nkomo, S., & Ngambi, H. (2009). African Women in Leadership: Current Knowledge and a Framework for Future Studies. International Journal of African Renaissance Studies—Multi- Inter- and Transdisciplinarity, 4(1), 49–68. Scholar
  28. Richter, L. K. (1991). Exploring Theories of Female Leadership in South and Southeast Asia. Pacific Affairs, 6, 524–540.Google Scholar
  29. Scheper-Hughes, N. (2008). A Talent for Life: Reflections on Human Vulnerability and Resilience. Ethnos, 73(1), 25–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sudarkasa, N. (1986). The Status of Women in Indigenous African Societies. Feminist Studies, 12(1), 91–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. UNHLP. (2016). Leave No One behind a Call to Action for Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment. Secretariat, UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment. Retrieved from
  32. Wolkowitz, C. (1987). Controlling Women’s Access to Political Power: A Case Study in Andhra Pradesh, India. In H. Afshar (Ed.), Women, State, and Ideology: Studies from Africa and Asia (pp. 205–225). London: Macmillan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Woo, L. C. (1985). Women Administrators: Profiles of Success. Phi Delta Kappan, 67(4), 285–288.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lanoi Maloiy
    • 1
  1. 1.African Women Studies Centre, University of NairobiNairobiKenya

Personalised recommendations