Laying the Foundations for Gender Equality

By Katie Fergusson: As Head of Social Impact, I feel privileged to be leading De Beers Group’s work on women and girls empowerment, including on diversity and inclusion.

I did my masters in Gender and Development and, having worked within the extractive sector for my entire career, I am passionate about this subject.

De Beers is a fascinating organisation to be working with in this area. It faces a similar story to many other mining companies with a historical legacy of women being under-represented. Indeed, until the 1990s, it was illegal for women to work in underground mines in some of our producer countries.

However, there is a clear appetite for fast and sustainable change in this area across the whole business. And it makes sense.

With more than 90 per cent of our consumers – but only 24 per cent of our workforce and 17 per cent of our leaders – being women, we have to make changes to stay relevant, to be the highest performing business that we can be and to support the socio-economic objectives of our producer countries.

Last week marked a significant step forward for both our focus on women and girls, and our business. On 20 September, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, announced the launch of our three-year partnership with UN Women in New York. UN Women is a global champion for women and girls, established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide.

Our partnership with UN Women centres on three commitments:

To achieve parity in the appointment rate of women and men into senior leadership by 2020.

To invest US$3 million into empowering women in our producer countries, including women micro-entrepreneurs in southern Africa and sponsorship of STEM students in Canada.

To ensure that our brands, through our marketing campaigns, are a positive force for gender equality.

We have already implemented a number of initiatives over the last 12 months as we work towards these goals.

These include reviewing our talent attraction and development processes, rolling out unconscious bias training, establishing a senior management-led reciprocal mentoring programme, and reviewing key policies and recruitment guidelines.

We have also worked with UN Women on the development of community programmes in Canada and southern Africa that will be launched in the coming months.

I am proud of how far we have already come and of the foundations that we have established to build real change upon.

Our partnership with UN Women puts a spotlight on our commitment and, as a result, we will be held to account, and rightfully so.

This is only part of our journey, and one that will need the continued support of our leaders and employees in order to ensure that we can continue to advance women in our business, our producer countries and through our marketing campaigns up to 2020 and beyond.

(The author is Head of Social Impact, De Beers Group)