There is no denying the amount of work still to be done in the area of Sierra Leone’s gender relations. One way that change is arriving is through the rapidly growing number of positive, resourceful women who are leading businesses and organisations that make an impact, as well as leave inspiration in their wake. They are professionalising their respective sectors, and improving the social and business landscape for women and men in Sierra Leone.
How would you describe your job?
I am Senior Partner and Director at PKF Mason Hill responsible for tax, business support and advisory. My job as one of the heads of the firm gives me overall responsibility for managing the strategic direction of the firm, administration and client relationships, ensuring integrity and high standards in the quality of the work we deliver to our clients.
How did you get into this field?
After gaining a first degree and an MBA from Ashridge Business School.my first job was as a Finance Assistant. I proceeded to work in accounting and finance within the public sector for various institutions, before getting into Senior Management as Principal Finance and Compliance Manager, at one of the largest and oldest Children’s charity in London. I have over 15 years of experience in finance, accounting and operations.
After my MBA, I proceeded to management consultancy, undertaking various assignments in business and finance transformation, restructuring and change management. After 25 years in the UK, I returned to Sierra Leone and worked as a financial analyst [2009-2013] at the privatisation commission. In 2014 after resigning from the Commission I started the consultancy firm Mason Hill and in 2015 after months of hard work, the firm was granted the Sierra Leone operating licence by PKF International, then becoming PKF Mason Hill.
What would you say are your most significant professional achievements?
One of the most significant was being head hunted to manage the finance and compliance team (UK), all the more significant as a young, black female in the UK progressing to senior management and playing a key operational role. Working in Sierra Leone as a Financial Analyst with responsibility for the reform and privatisation of the Energy and Telecoms sector. I am pleased with the positive impact and progress we made back then, in particular spearheading the successful management contract of SIERRATEL.
My proudest, most recent achievement was gaining the operating licence from PKF International after months of preparation and trips to UK and South Africa. On a social level, I’m also honoured to be the second female Commodore of the Freetown Aqua Sports Club in its 50-year history.
Many times I have found myself in Sierra Leone, being the only female in meetings with the added pressure to prove that I am worthy of being in the room discussing technical matters with other senior individuals. I’m glad to say that I earned the respect of those I engaged. Women in politics, commerce and business have certainly made an impact and cracked the glass ceiling but there is still much more to do. Women should be given equal opportunities but I am not a supporter of quotas but rather believe women should be appointed because they are qualified and experienced for that role, as only then will they make a positive contribution, deliver results and drive change thus opening doors for other women.
How does what you do contribute to Sierra Leone’s economic development?
When done correctly, one of the good things about the privatisation of state owned enterprises, is the restructuring and improvement in the effectiveness of the organisation. This in turn improves the financial performance and reduces or removes the financial burden to the government, enabling the government to spend resources on key priorities such as education and health. Divestiture also encourages investment from indigenous private companies which results in local taxes being paid and profits remaining within the country to be reinvested.
As an advisory firm we contribute through job creation, tax compliance, simplifying and cutting through the complexities. This reduces the barriers for some of our clients wishing to invest in Sierra Leone. Our global expertise with local knowledge gives clients the confidence in our integrity and also promotes Sierra Leone’s many good investment opportunities across all sectors. Empowering our employees is also key. It enables them to develop their skills and provide financial security for their families.
Who has been your greatest mentor and what did they teach you?
My parents are my greatest mentors. They instilled great values and discipline and always taught me to believe in myself, have faith in God and that nothing was impossible through hard work. They taught me to be respectful, honest and humble. My Mum is a very strong woman whom I admire a lot. I also invested in a business with her – Chubby Cheeks Daycare which was established in 2002. Throughout my career I have also been fortunate to have inspirational bosses in the organisations that I worked for who encouraged and supported me to grow professionally. Now as an employer, I strive to do the same for my staff and nurture and empower them to achieve their dreams and grow. I enjoy the variations of the job that I do and the greatest blessing is being paid to do what I enjoy and love doing,
Protection for Children, especially young girls is very close to my heart and part of this is improving the laws to protect them from abuse and injustice. Glenna Thompson, Barrister at Law has been a champion to change the laws and has spearheaded a lot of legal changes in access to justice for all and protection for vulnerable women and children, ensuring that their voices are heard. In addition there are many other female leaders in the public and private sector who have impacted Sierra Leone and continue to do so in whatever little or big way they can, including the Auditor General, Lara Taylor-Pearce.