Picture: GETTY IMAGES/EMANUELE CREMASCHI
Picture: GETTY IMAGES/EMANUELE CREMASCHI

For more than a century, International Women’s Day has been celebrated annually on March 8 to recognise the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

It provides an opportunity for all of us to celebrate the progress that has been made globally towards greater gender equality; to reflect on how much further as a society we have to go; and to consider what role — both individually and as organisations — we will play in the pursuit of equality of opportunity for all.

When I became CEO of De Beers Group in 2016, I committed to being bolder in the advancement of women and girls because I firmly believe that the world can become a better place if everyone — women and men — has the opportunity to stand on a level playing field.

It is a commitment I have driven across the company not only because I believe it is the right thing to do to help create a fairer world, but also because it is the right thing to do for our business.

HeForShe provides a platform for all genders to stand shoulder to shoulder, to work towards solutions for gender equality, and to commit to take action for the benefit of everyone

Repeatedly, research has shown that diverse teams enable a better understanding of customers and a more productive, innovative and resilient business, while investing in women and girls also has an exponential impact on socio-economic development.

It is also an intuitive area for De Beers Group to take a stand, with more than 90% of our consumers being women, and it is an area in which we have the potential to make a real difference within our partner countries, through the link between women’s advancement and poverty reduction.

With this in mind, we agreed that to support progress towards achieving UN sustainable development goal (SDG) 5 on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, we needed to be proactive and to accelerate our actions.

HeForShe 

We wanted to encourage a deeper dialogue around inclusion and diversity, and make the journey itself inclusive of everyone within our business. In September 2017, De Beers Group, therefore, committed to the UN’s Women’s HeForShe movement, and I personally became a HeForShe Thematic Champion.

HeForShe provides a platform for all genders to stand shoulder to shoulder, to work towards solutions for gender equality, and to commit to take action for the benefit of everyone. As a HeForShe partner, De Beers Group made a number of commitments.

The first was to achieve parity in the appointment of women and men into senior leadership by 2020. Although we still have a long way to go, I am pleased to say that one significant result of our work so far has been that the appointment rate for women into senior roles has already doubled and that we are on track to meeting our commitment.

The second was to invest in female micro-entrepreneurs and  science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students in our diamond-producing partner countries of Botswana, Canada, Namibia and SA.

To date, we have launched micro-entrepreneur training programmes in SA and Namibia, and have completed baseline studies in Botswana ahead of a launch later this year. By the end of 2020, we aim to have trained more than 1,200 female entrepreneurs across Southern Africa and, in Canada, to have sponsored more than 40 university scholarships with a focus on supporting young women from its indigenous peoples to study STEM subjects.

Finally, we committed to ensuring our consumer brands begin to serve as a positive force for the promotion of gender equality through our marketing campaigns, something we’re underpinning with recently launched inclusive marketing guidelines for our teams producing consumer-facing content.

I know that a more inclusive and diverse culture within De Beers  is not something we can achieve overnight, but we are making progress.

We have launched a number of internal initiatives to ensure equal opportunities for men and women to advance and thrive, including identifying gender champions and establishing employee-led working groups across the business; launching an executive committee-led reciprocal mentoring programme; and running pilot workshops to engage male and female employees on gender equality.

While we are still at the early stages of our journey, we are starting to feel and see the positive impacts of our commitments, changes that are long overdue. I encourage everyone who wants to be a part of this journey to show their commitment by signing up for HeForShe at www.heforshe.org/en/commit/debeers.

It is only by moving forward together that we can create a fairer and more inclusive world for all.

• Cleaver is CEO of De Beers Group.