Engendering soft power: Zvaravanhu 

Source: Engendering soft power: Zvaravanhu | The Herald 09 MAR, 2020

Engendering soft power: ZvaravanhuMs Zvaravanhu

Tawanda Musarurwa
Feminism seems to have had bad rap over the years. It’s not, as many perceive, a radical reordering of society calling for female supremacy.

I recently met one of these odds-defying women —  Ms Gloria Zvaravanhu — and the impression I ended up with is that their goal is to create a more open and inclusive society (and I didn’t say Gloria is a feminist by the way).

Gloria is the chief executive officer of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Zimbabwe (ICAZ).

“It’s important as women to fully embrace our femininity, because with it comes certain characteristics that are required for leadership. One of them is that we are mothers by nature, with the characteristics of nurturing, caring and empathy, which are key in leadership even for men,” she says.

“So we are default leaders because we are mothers, so as women go into leadership positions, let’s not try to be like somebody else, let’s not try to be like men. The men are already on the table and they are already bringing their good attributes. Women need to bring to the table the good attributes from the female side.”

Women do have strong leadership capacities to match or even exceed their male counterparts.

The ICAZ boss’ track record speaks for itself.

A chartered accountant by profession, Gloria is a past president of ICAZ and was the second female president in ICAZ’s 100-year history. She has 17 years of experience in financial management, 13 of which are at executive management level.

Before joining ICAZ, she served as a general manager at NicozDiamond Insurance Limited, a finance executive at First Mutual Life and a manager at KPMG Chartered Accountants in both audit and corporate finance departments.

She is an alumnus of the prestigious US State Department/Fortune 500 Global women mentoring programme where she was mentored by one of the top ‘50 Most Powerful Women in Business’ in the United States.

She holds a Bachelor of Accountancy Degree from Rhodes University, South Africa and a Master in Business Leadership Degree from the University of South Africa. She has also just completed an LLM Degree in International Business Law with the University of Cumbria in the United Kingdom.

She serves as the chairman of Chengetedzayi Depository Company board and chairs several other audit committees in Zimbabwe.

At continental level she serves on the Pan African Federation of Accountants Board where she represents 15 countries in Southern Africa. She also serves on the Africa Integrated Reporting Council.

At International level, she was recently appointed to serve on a business committee of the International Federation of Accountants with effect from January 2020.

Gloria has won several business accolades in Zimbabwe that include Female Manager of the year (2013), Corporate Governance Professional of the year (2017), and Young Professional leader of the year (2018).

In her view, there is growing appreciation from society of the leadership capacities of women, because of the ones who have “been there and done that.”

“I think obviously because we are coming from a position where we were the minority in business, I think we need to get to a level where we are fully embraced and appreciated. Appreciated for what we can do, and I think its slowly coming as more and more women get into influential positions, as more women get onto boards, as more women lead organisations and corporates.

“There is now a stamp of authority, proven record that women can do it too, so slowly we are finding that we are getting more and more women as a result of that,” she said.

“Initially, people didn’t know what to expect when this wave of women wanting to be in leadership came about, but there was no track record. This year the theme for International Women’s Month is “Each for Equal”, meaning that we are all equal and that we bring different things to the table. It’s important to have gender balance, to have gender diversity because we bring different attributes to the table.”

And she is convinced that even more women should now be looking to pass through that broken glass ceiling.

“Certainly there more opportunities (for women to rise). If you look at the demographics of this country, or the world for that matter, there are more women than men, but when you look at positions of influence we are still a minority. It’s been improving through over the years. I’ll give you an example of Zimbabwe Stock Exchange listed organisations and their leaders, you will find that out of the 60 or so listed companies, there are probably two of three female CEOs.

“We have got one we have been celebrating of late from Lafarge Cement, Precious, but she is one of probably two, so that in itself shows you. And if we just go into Government I don’t know how many female Ministers there are but it’s definitely in the minority, so the opportunity for women to get into these positions is still vast.”

Gloria is convinced that the task of supporting other women shouldn’t just fall to Government or institutions, but should heartfelt by every woman.

“Government already has a Ministry, which takes care of women affairs and I would like to think that there are a lot of initiatives that have been put in place to emancipate women. But I’m not one who always waits for Government is doing. I think as individuals we have a role to play in raising the next woman,” she says.

“As women we shouldn’t simply look at the next woman to do it for us, we shouldn’t just look at what Government is doing for you, in your own environment what are you doing? When you get to the top are you sending the elevators down to bring up other women? This Women’s Month I’m grateful at the women who helped to where I am right now, and I challenge other women to do the same. Let’s always start at the individual level.”