Rosalia Gitau is an attorney, author, and humanitarian who works in the technology industry. She is the founder and CEO of Bixie (www.mybixie.com), an award-winning wealth-building software for women that has been named a Top FinTech firm by The Manila Times, The Manila Bulletin, 1Million Startups, the Financial Alliance for Women, and Women’s World Banking. She has worked for the United Nations, Alibaba, Shearman & Sterling, and the governments of the United States, Liberia, and Sierra Leone for over 15 years throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas.
Upon the ‘Breaking the Bias: The Future of Money for African Women’ webinar coming up on the 10th of April, 2022, Rosalia Gitau grants Exquisite Magazine an interview, giving us an insight to her work and passion as well as what to expect at the upcoming webinar.
- You are a tech executive, humanitarian, author, and attorney. Such a diverse (some may say intertwined) range in career. Why the multifacetedness?
I have always been principally interested in poverty– or better yet how to avoid it. I had a very diverse upbringing: I was born to a Filipina mother and a Kenyan father and grew up in both places before moving to the US. But by 14 years old, I was an orphan and had to figure out how to become financially secure, and fast. Having lived on both sides of the financial fence, I know how much poverty is a consequence of chance and injustice and I am interested in preventing every person in the world from the powerlessness ones feels when under financial duress. So I went looking for a solution that took me to the law as an attorney advocating for change, to the United Nations as a humanitarian responding to crises all over the world, and now to Bixie, as a FinTech Executive quite literally leveraging technology to enrich people who have hitherto been excluded from access to wealth. The time we have on this planet is infinitesimal- I want to use the time I have here to live totally, fully and in the service of others, this is the natural cycle. A tree’s purpose is to provide shade.
One can imagine how well-traveled your jobs and roles have made you. What experience(s) have struck you throughout your world travels?
I have lived and worked in over 25 countries, and visited dozens more. What sticks with me is not what distinguishes us but what we have in common. There isn’t a place in the world that doesn’t have music, a special dish, and some kind of stimulant. I find relief then to know that fundamental to human nature is that we all love to party. But in all seriousness, I love how similar we all are despite if we look different or speak differently. We are all the same: we all want love and to be loved. We all want to keep our children safe from harm. And we all want to be accepted and acknowledged. I take these lessons with me wherever I park my suitcases.
Is there any place you desire to visit for work, humanitarianism (or vacation) that you haven’t yet?
My dream trip is to go horseback riding in the Mongolian Highlands. I grew up riding and there is nothing more freeing than being with a horse in nature. I want to take this trip with my daughter once she is old enough so she knows what freedom feels like.
You are the CEO of Bixie, an award-winning wealth generation app for women. What was the motivation for setting up a fintech company for the benefit of women in mind?
Honestly, getting to my mid-30s after well-paid and prestigious careers with little to show for it. I fell into the trap that so many women in the world do, the capitalist trap of consumption and financial ignorance intended to keep us indentured as labor for capitalists. That summer I happened to pick up Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century and discovered that for the first time since the French Revolution money makes more money than labor. I immediately realized why the millions of women I worked with around the world with the UN were in a poverty trap: it’s because we weren’t showing them the real levers of how capitalism works. I want to see a world in which women have a choice over our bodies, our lives, and our destinies. And insofar as money is power in a capitalist system, then I want to empower us all to know how to navigate it.
You are known to be a woman for the women, having done much advocating for women in different fields, you are surely looked up to. Which women inspire you?
My grandmothers are women that inspire me every day and I was named for both of them. My Kenyan grandmother, Njeri, lived to 95 years old and was a young widow thanks to the war for independence; she raised nine university grads all on her own in post-colonial Kenya thanks to her coffee farm. My Filipina grandmother, Rosalia, is 95 years old, a mother of six university grads all paid for by her rice farm; she survived World War I, World War II, and the Spanish Flu. Anytime I feel tired or discouraged, I just think of them and forge ahead. Where there is a will, there is always a way.
What would be your advice to young women who wish to take up leadership roles?
Take them. An American performer once famously said “the thing women need to understand is that the world isn’t just going to give you power. You have to take it.” If you want to take up a leadership role, take one. Create a company, start a movement, found a non-profit. There is no shortage of problems in the world to address, pick one and start solving it. It’s just a matter of time before your work and commitment motivate and inspires others, then voilà, you’re a leader.
What would you say is the most fulfilling part of your job?
I get to work with and meet incredible women from all over the world every single day. I run a majority female team recognized by Women’s World Banking for Outstanding Female Leadership, we build our technology with user women-centered focus groups, and I partner with other women-led organizations for marketing and distribution. I get to work with incredibly smart and diverse women across the world and it’s by far the best part of my job.
In addition to running Bixie, the Financial Home for Women, I also founded a global non-profit called the Humanitarian Women’s Network in 2015. Our mission was simple: to be treated equally and fairly in the $30 billion aid industry– and we have made great lengths in achieving our mission: changing global policy and advising the largest UN agencies in the world. However, the greatest challenge we face is the dinosaurs: the thousands of men of certain seniority at the UN that have not adapted to the times and continue to abuse their authority. But it’s only a matter of time before the winds of change sweep them away. There is no denying that the Future is Female.
There is no denying the challenges many women face as a result of their gender. Domestic violence, verbal abuse, and sexual abuse, to name a few. How would you encourage women not to give up?
My mother died at 36 years old and I was legally divorced by my father at 14 years old with nothing more than a backpack and a dream. This precious life of ours is the only one we’re going to get. I encourage all women, regardless of their circumstances to ask themselves: is this how I’m going to live my one precious life? If the answer is on, get up, get dressed and get out. Fortune is for the bold so make your move.
Tell us your take on the future of money for women
At Bixie, we posit that women interact with money differently than men. One key distinction which is the secret to our future success is the fact that we network in our financial decisions with other women, our friends, and our peers. Technology has enabled us to formalize these informal bonds, and turn them into a commodifiable trust network that can garner us wealth— this is ultimately the power of the blockchain where trust begets compensation. The future of money is being built on the blockchain and women have natural behaviors that will garner our profits in this new world of money.
Tell us about the event in Nigeria this Sunday
The Future of Money for African Women is going to layout in no uncertain terms: (1) what the future of money looks like around the world and (2) how women can capture the largest wealth transfer in our lifetimes– and not risk being excluded yet again. Ensuring that 51% of the world is going to get our fair share this time around is nothing short of revolutionary. So join the revolution and register here: https://lnkd.in/gRVuPewN
What’s the next step for Bixie?
The Bixie is the female feng shui symbol for wealth generation and we’re taking her global. Our plan is to launch in Lagos this year, then in Kenya and South Africa. Concurrently we’re growing in Asia. We launched in The Philippines last year and are moving across Asia, having just been recognized as a Top 100 Startup in Southeast Asia. Fewer than 1% of women globally invest, creating a market gap of $5 trillion dollars. Bixie is here to close that gap.
One can imagine how busy your schedule can get. How do you unwind and stay in good spirits?
I unwind by meditating and exercising every day. It’s how I start my day. I’ve worked in high-stress work environments for the entirety of my career and it’s important to be centered to make the best decisions possible. This is especially the case with a start-up where day-to-day troubleshooting is the job. You have to be able to adapt, pivot, overcome, overwhelm, all in the course of a day and this requires a level of groundedness tantamount to Yoda. Spending quality time with my family is also how I unwind: every morning I go for a long walk with my husband, my daughter, and my two Labradors. And in the evenings, we always have dinner together as a family.
More information on Bixie cam be found on www.mybixie.com
Written By Ileri Obaweya