De Beers, sometimes slagged as a boy’s club, now has a new message: Women wanted.
Last week, the diamond giant forged a three-year partnership with UN Women, a division of the United Nations. As part of that deal, De Beers pledged to achieve gender parity in upper-level management by 2020, to invest $3 million to support women in diamond producing countries, and to ensure its brands are “a positive force for supporting gender equality.”
(We should note that the executive director of UN Women is Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who oversaw—and sometimes tangled with—De Beers when she served as South Africa’s minister of minerals.)
De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver calls the partnership a natural one, since 90 percent of diamonds are bought for women.
“Women are a key part of our future,” he tells JCK. “There’s a fair amount of research that shows more diverse teams make better decisions.”
Traditionally, De Beers has lacked women in its upper ranks—with the notable exception of now-departed sales director Varda Shine. Cleaver notes that the company recently hired a female head of human resources and that she and another female executive were recently promoted to the company’s executive committee.
And he clearly wants to increase their ranks.
“Our numbers are just not good enough,” he says. “Twenty-four percent of our workforce is female, which is just not good enough.”
“This won’t be easy,” he adds. “We are not just going to be paying lip service. This will change the way we hire talent.”
In addition, De Beers has committed to making the marketing for its Forevermark and De Beers Diamond Jewellers brands “serve as a positive force for gender equality.”
As part of that, the company will work with UN Women to “[devise] creative campaigns that reflect the diverse roles that women occupy in society.”
With its research showing an increase in the number of self-purchasing women, De Beers intended to talk more to women in its advertising anyway, but now it plans to accelerate that.
“This isn’t philanthropic,” Cleaver says. “There’s a powerful force of female self-purchase. We see a major opportunity there.”
Finally, De Beers has pledged $3 million to advance the prospects of women and girls in diamond-producing nations. In Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa, the money will go to accelerating the growth of female microentrepreneurs. In Canada, De Beers will fund scholarships for young women and girls from underprivileged communities who want to pursue studies in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM).
As part of this commitment, De Beers will have to publicly report every year how much progress it’s made against those agreed-to benchmarks.
Cleaver says the internal feedback has been extremely positive.
“We have a tremendous response throughout the group,” he says. “It makes me feel proud to be part of De Beers.”
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