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Partnership seeks to boost pipeline of Women Engineers

De Beers Group has launched a three-year partnership with WomEng to develop the next generation of highly skilled female engineers

De Beers Group is investing US$315,000 over three years in programmes that aim to encourage young women to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects and to pursue engineering careers in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.

Katie Fergusson, Senior Vice-President Social Impact, De Beers Group, said: “With a global shortage of engineers, and women representing only 11 per cent of the engineering workforce, attracting more young women into engineering is vital. In our fast-changing world, we need diversity of thought to find new solutions, so we are therefore thrilled to be able to partner with WomEng and play a role in supporting the next generation of talented engineers who will play a critical role in shaping the future.”

The programme in partnership with De Beers Group, Unilever and EY, is designed to strengthen the students’ employability and leadership skills and cultivate innovative entrepreneurial thinking through the WomEng Innovation Challenge. Students are challenged to develop an engineering business solution to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

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De Beers Group hosted 60 female pre-and-post graduate engineering students from South Africa, Botswana and Namibia at its Johannesburg Head Office on Thursday, 4 July 2019 to learn more about De Beers Group and the diamond value chain.

The students were hosted by Managing Director of De Beers Group Managed Operations, Mpumi Zikalala, who took the aspiring female engineers through her journey in the mining industry. Mpumi spoke of her humble beginnings as an Anglo American bursar, to becoming the first female General Manager of De Beers Kimberley and Voorspoed mines. She was later appointed Senior Vice President of the Group’s Sightholder Sales in South Africa before taking over as Deputy CEO of De Beers Consolidated Mines in 2017. Mpumi has been in her current role since April 2019.

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“The world you are about to enter into requires passion, dedication and hard work, but you must always remember not to compromise who you are along this journey – always stick to your values. I am very proud to be part of a company that is driven by its purpose to re-imagining mining to change people’s lives. We are also committed to empowering women and girls and I hope you take this opportunity to learn and become the best versions of yourselves,” said Mpumi.

The students were also given the opportunity to enter into the world of diamonds interacting with various De Beers Group departments such as De Beers Group Technology, Exploration, Innovation (Ignite) and Element Six.  The evening ended with a simulation exercise that tested their problem-solving skills and teamwork.

Next month, a series of half-day GirlEng #AskAnEngineer workshops will begin, facilitated by engineers, students and the WomEng team. Each session will target 200 girls in schools around De Beers Group’s operations. The first is in Musina, South Africa, followed by sessions in Windhoek, Namibia, and Orapa and Jwaneng in Botswana.

The sessions are designed to create awareness of the importance of STEM subjects and to provide the students with practical tools and routes to access engineering and technology careers. They will be followed by a regional GirlEng programme, where 60 students chosen from the earlier sessions are eligible for a sponsored two-day Innovation Boot-Camp in Johannesburg in March 2020. Students will also be provided with support for university and scholarship applications, as well as exposure to mining environments.

WomEng, founded in South Africa in 2006, has run programmes in 19 countries and reached more than 50,000 girls and women studying STEM subjects. They are currently partnering with UNESCO on their #1MillionGirlsinSTEM goal.

Aditi Lachman, WomEng Programme Coordinator said: “The event, hosted by De Beers Group, solidified our WomEng-De Beers Group relationship and collective commitment to developing young engineering leaders with skills of the future. The future looks bright and we are excited.”

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