THE corporate world was previously male dominated but at the turn of the century, young women have penetrated the boardroom and climbed to the pinnacle of the corporate ladder.
One such future young leader is Rebecca Manford who rose the ranks to chief financial officer of an esteemed tobacco player Cavendish Lloyd Zimbabwe at the young age of thirty-three.
Like a trailblazer she is , she managed to forge her own paths to get where she is in a male dominated environment. In an interview, Manford retraced her turbulent journey to the top and said she still has hunger to achieve more. Her late father is her main inspiration , she revealed in a wide ranging interview.
“I grew up watching my father who embodied what a corporate person is in every way, and watching him work so hard and provide for our immediate and extended family made me admire him. He was also in the same field so I am sure subconsciously from that tender age I was drawn to the profession and it was natural for me to take that path when the time came as it is all I had ever known,” she retraced.
She said she also grew up at a time when society shamed women and it motivated her to defy odds.
“I grew up in a society where women were shamed , like my mother who only bore ‘girls’, but I am grateful that my parents raised us to believe that we are capable of achieving anything, even the things men do, such that I have never shied away or felt less than just because I am a woman. In fact, I embrace it and being a woman in a male-dominated world is an advantage as one then stands out,” she said.
Adding: “There are so many challenges I have faced over the years like any upcoming professional.
“From financial constraints that in turn affect your academic progress to constantly watching over your shoulder as this market is very competitive due to the high rate of unemployment and let me not forget the constant search for ‘greener pastures’ within the industry.”
She said as a young future leader ,one needs a good support system and colleagues who believe in them and give a chance as well as the willpower to endure,” she said
She however insisted that she has not yet “arrived” and she showered praises on the government for creating policies that empowers young women leaders in business and corporate world. “I am the classic example of someone who came straight from the bottom, however not at the top, yet, or at least where I want to be.
” I started working immediately after high school. I enrolled with Ernst and Young and this was the best option for me as my father was late by this time and so physically attending university was financially impossible. So I started right from being a clerk and have over the years and working in different organisations having moved from being a clerk, to Supervisor, to Manager and now to Chief Finance Officer,” said Manford.
“I love what I do and its versatility over the years as I have been involved and have acquired strong skills in Auditing, Financial Accounting, Cost Accounting, Logistics, Operations, Procurement, Human Resources and Administration. I have been dubbed an all-rounder and this has been a very useful arsenal to have in carrying out my most current role,” she added.
Her current portfolio encompasses Finance, Business Strategy and Operations. She explained that the role of an accountant has evolved over the years. Manford is a born leader and has held several leadership positions since primary school.
“I would like to make a disclaimer that it’s not I who is clever or amazing but God.”
“It is by the Grace of God that I manage to do what I do. From a young age I have always stood out and have had a consistent relationship with leadership and limelight. In primary school, I was a Junior prefect at Blakiston school by 6th Grade, and in my final year I was the head-girl. “In primary school I was chosen via the Ministry of Education to represent Zimbabwe at the Commonwealth Children’s Millennium Festival which was held in New Zealand. I was also part and Member of the Children’s world Parliament in which one of the sessions I delivered a speech on the Rights of the Girl Child- which received a standing ovation on completion and was critically acclaimed in its own right.
While in high school, I held plenty positions such as House Captain and Prefect at Arundel School, ” she retraced.
In 2005, she was elected the Junior Deputy Mayor of Harare and member of the Harare Junior Council. She also served as the Chief Whip.
Asked on her academic qualifications , she said she holds a Bachelor’s Degree attained from the University of South Africa where she majored in Accounting and Auditing. She furthered studies and became a qualified Chartered Account.
“To gain my professional qualification with the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA). I obviously believe in continued personal development so even after this I have pursued other certificates and training as well as a Masters in Business Administration,” she said.
Off the boardroom, Manford is a musician.
“I have been blessed with the opportunity to experience many things. When I am not in the boardroom or in the field steering the operations, I make sure to do things that are fulfilling to myself. I love to sing and for many years sang at church. I am currently working on a album project which is so exciting as I have some great features lined up as well as working with the best producers our land has to offer. I am hoping to offer a project to the people that will bring healing and hope during these hard times we are living in,” she said.
She is also involved in charity work where she collects and distribute sanitary wear and she is currently working on a project to build a small school block in Epworth and she made a plea to corporate partners.
“I’m passionate about the girl child and young people and I am often invited to speak at related events. I am also privileged to always be invited to various corporate events, festivals and for participation on different platforms and panels, which allows me to engage with like minds, other corporate people and the youth alike. This I truly enjoy,” said Manford.
She is single and has no children. Meanwhile, last week a group of young female leaders met in Harare and engaged government to spearhead several projects that will contribute to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).