de beers women in mining

MARSHA CHETTY, head of human resources at De Beers Group Managed Operations has been tasked with leading the global company’s transformation experience across South Africa and Canada.  

Having grown up in the apartheid era in South Africa, Chetty was impassioned by the changes brought about in the country by then President Nelson Mandela.

Today, she is eager to bring positive transformation to all of De Beers Group’s stakeholders as her contribution to building a truly sustainable business, writes LAURA CORNISH.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 7, 2020
Read the full digimag here or subscribe to receive a print copy here

“Diamonds bring beauty to the world. But we think they can do so much more. We want to use our diamonds, and our business, to make life brilliant – for our people, our customers and the world around us.

“This means living to one’s full potential, for communities to thrive and be resilient, and to contribute to a  balanced and flourishing planet. These are the things we work towards. These are the things that make a brilliant life. This is our purpose,” starts Chetty.

Read more about diamonds and gemstones

This is De Beers Group’s core purpose and value in driving the decisions it makes every day. The company considers sustainability and transformation keystone drivers upon which its core mining business is built and grown.

Easy in theory perhaps to achieve but delivering on these areas is not a tick the box exercise.

“Making life brilliant for our shareholders and stakeholders is achieved through the manner in which we conduct ourselves, how we collaborate with our external partners and how we interact with our employees.

“The underlying foundation in how we do so is driven by our values – to be respectful to everyone, ensure we can walk a day in the shoes of someone we work or interact with and importantly – being consistent in doing so,” Chetty outlines.

It is not difficult to see why she is such a perfect fit for the transformation position she fills when she talks about what drives and motivates her in the work she does. Having grown up during the apartheid era in South Africa, she looked to leaders such as Nelson Mandela to inspire her. From an early age, she strived to be part of the change the will drive discrimination and racism away.

“Having grown up in South Africa in this era – I had the opportunity of experiencing the world through transformational leaders like Nelson Mandela who drove the change through symbolic behaviours, and one of them that’s edged in my memory is the Rugby World Cup victory in 1995.

“That leader, and other people I chose to surround myself with has shaped me as a person, helped determine what I want to do and drive’s my career objectives.”

Read more about The De Beers Group

“The real driver however is taking my own passion and learnings,  imparting my knowledge and unleashing creativity in others – that energises and motivates me,” Chetty shares.

Leading by example

In 2017, De Beers Group announced a three-year partnership with UN Women and pledged to accelerate the advancement of women across its organisation. The company made three specific commitments:

  1. Community: Invest US$3 million over three years to support women and girls in the company’s diamond-producing countries;
  2. Company: Achieve parity in the appointment of women and men into senior leadership roles by 2020; and
  3. Consumer: Ensure De Beers’ brands are a positive force for gender equality through marketing.

As part of the partnership, Chetty says that CEO Bruce Cleaver became a UN Women HeForShe Thematic Champion – pledging to make gender an institutional priority by implementing a bold, game-changing commitment to advance and achieve gender equality.

“Through the efforts and time given by our CEO to achieving greater transformation efforts throughout the business we are giving a clear message to our employees – that we have time for and want to listen to the voices of our personnel, understand their stories, their communities and even their worlds,” Chetty states.

“This lays the foundation for building a work family where the principals of family apply – respect, feeling valued, having the courage to speak up – with a supportive leadership teams who are there to help them know how best to interact, be inclusive, empowered, free of discrimination, and break through glass ceilings.

“With these principles embedded in every person within our organisation, we will achieve one of our biggest objectives – customers who not only buys our diamonds, but buy into the values behind how that diamond was mined, recovered and delivered to market,” she highlights.

Chetty’s work at De Beers Group

“My focus is creating more positive stories in our communities and within the organisation who are or have been previously disadvantaged,” she shares, also talking about the ripple effect of building a community who can then continue to build their own people further. Or simply put, empowering people with the right tools to empower others.

“Empowering a person starts with training, that training leads to the development of a skill, that skill becomes a competence, that competence becomes a career, and that career becomes your legacy,” Chetty outlines, and this is the process she follows which has in her time seen the successful growth of many people and communities across the globe.

“It is also important to recognise and celebrate the small wins because that builds momentum for greater achievements.”

To date Chetty has been involved in a number of transformation programmes and initiatives, including empowering men to understand what is happening in the workplace so as to encourage diversity and inclusion.

“We gave the same training to women as well to ensure all-round inclusivity.”

As part of De Beers Group’s commitment to standing with women and girls, the company is aiming to support at least 1 250 women micro-entrepreneurs.

To do this, the company is working in partnership with UN Women and national governments to develop a regional capacity-building programme across its operating countries of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa between 2018 and 2020. A total of 460 women micro-entrepreneurs have graduated from the programme in South Africa.

The AWOME (Accelerating Women Owned Micro-Enterprises) programme aims to support women micro-entrepreneurs to build their businesses, create more jobs and generate more income, through business and life skills training, as well as access to networks and support.

It follows a train the trainer approach, whereby local community members are trained to train and mentor women micro-entrepreneurs. This generates jobs for the trainers and means the programme can be sustainably embedded, with the aim of gradually reducing support to ensure self-reliance.

Micro-entrepreneurs who are already involved range from children entertainers, fashion designers, diesel mechanics, florists to farmers amongst many more.

Another initiative close to her heart, through the partnership with UN Women is the HeForShe Thematic Champion.

This programme is committed to achieving parity in the workforce appointment rate by 2020 and to ensuring that the company is a positive force for gender equality through its marketing campaigns.

Read more: Accelerating Women Owned Micro-Enterprises programme