De Beers' Evelyn Mervine Thinks It Is Time for the Climate to Change for Women in Diamond Mining

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De Beers' Evelyn Mervine Thinks It Is Time for the Climate to Change for Women in Diamond Mining

Dr Evelyn Mervine, a Climate Change Specialist, wants to help prevent the climate changing, but she does want to change the ‘subtle sexism’ in diamond mining.
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Dr Evelyn Mervine, a Climate Change Specialist, shares her story & advice for #WomenInMining https://t.co/NGCOghQ1Mj
Wednesday, October 4, 2017 - 8:35am

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Dr Evelyn Mervine, a Climate Change Specialist, wants to help prevent the climate changing, but she does want to change the ‘subtle sexism’ in diamond mining.

How long have you been with De Beers Group, and what were you doing before you joined?

I grew up in rural New Hampshire in the US, and I spent much of my childhood exploring the outdoors. I was particularly fond of outdoor sports such as rock climbing, hiking and paddling. I’ve been racing kayaks and canoes since I was 12 years old, and I continue to participate in the sport.

Before joining De Beers Group in 2014, I worked as an exploration geologist for AuruMar, a marine gold exploration company that was a joint venture between De Beers Group and AngloGold Ashanti.

I’ve worked primarily as a marine geologist for De Beers Marine. I’ve also provided technical geological services for De Beers Group Services. I have recently moved into a new role in the company as a Climate Change Specialist and I am also Project Lead for Project Minera, an innovative R&D programme investigating the potential to store carbon in kimberlite tailings to offset mine emissions.

In total, I spent 10 years at university, and I’m not done with my studies yet. I have a BA in earth sciences and Arabic language and literature, a PhD in marine geology, and next year I start a part-time MSc in carbon management. I am particularly proud of my PhD. It is from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was extremely tough. During my PhD studies, I married my husband, Jackie Gauntlett, who is South African and also a geologist, and I moved to Cape Town.

What attracted you to De Beers Group?

Before joining, I had a negative perception of the company and of the diamond mining industry in general. However, after I moved to South Africa and started to work with geologists and engineers from De Beers Group, I realised that the company does enormous social good. I now have great respect for the company. Also, diamond geology is fascinating, and I was attracted to the strong R&D culture in De Beers Group.

What do you like most about your work?

My favourite part of my role is that I feel that I am contributing to a greater good, specifically contributing to global efforts to understand and mitigate the harmful impacts of climate change. I also really enjoy working on technical geological research projects, especially ones involving geochemistry and mineralogy.

What are the main challenges you face as a woman in mining?

Working in a male-dominated environment can be challenging and intimidating. I am used to working in such environments, but I always feel better when there is one other woman or, better still, a few women, on a team with me. Some of the challenges are relatively small – for example, when visiting mine and laboratory research sites, I sometimes struggle to find 

personal protective equipment (PPE) that fits comfortably. I think De Beers Group should look at investing in some PPE designed for women’s bodies, including some maternity options (my son is due in October, so recently I’ve found PPE extra uncomfortable). However, these small challenges add up and place an extra burden on women working in the industry.

Fortunately, I haven’t experienced much blatant sexism while working in the mining industry, but subtle sexism persists. I routinely hear comments such as: ‘You’ll want to slow down your career when you have children.’ I doubt anyone would make a similar comment to a man. Also, while De Beers Group employees are generally fairly good in their treatment of women, sometimes contractors are not as good.

I think a big challenge will be transitioning from there being ‘token’ women in the industry to there being many women – ideally, one day 50 per cent. Perhaps studying some success stories could be helpful. For example, Voorspoed mine in South Africa employs a high number of women.

I would like to see De Beers Group investigate its pay gaps. Do women receive the same pay as men for equal work? If not, that needs correcting. In addition, I think one of the best ways for De Beers Group to promote gender equality would be to offer paternity benefits in all the countries where the company operates. Also, when discussing women in the workplace, we should carefully consider the terms we use, such as ‘work-life balance’. We rarely use terms such as this when discussing men, and use of them tends to imply that women must be superheroes who balance everything or that women are missing something if they have no children or if they have a partner or other person who is a primary caregiver for their children.

What advice would you give a woman joining the mining industry?

Find yourself a strong female mentor as this can be very helpful and encouraging. Try not to worry too much about society’s expectations. You can define your own path. Focus on your passion for your work and don’t be afraid to take on big challenges and to move around for opportunities. If you want children, you can have them and have a successful career. If you do need to make some adjustments to your work when you have children, remember that you will likely have a career of 30 years or longer, and fewer adjustments will be needed once your children are older.

How do you like to spend your spare time?

As well as racing kayaks and canoes, I enjoy knitting, travelling and reading, especially mystery novels and science fiction. I also enjoy reading non-fiction science, history and archaeology books.

About De Beers
De Beers is a member of the Anglo American plc group. Established in 1888, De Beers is the world’s leading diamond company with expertise in the exploration, mining and marketing of diamonds. Together with its joint venture partners, De Beers employs more than 20,000 people across the diamond pipeline and is the world’s largest diamond producer by value, with mining operations in Botswana, Canada, Namibia and South Africa. As part of the company’s operating philosophy, the people of De Beers are committed to ‘Building Forever’ by making a lasting contribution to the communities in which they live and work, and transforming natural resources into shared national wealth. For further information about De Beers, visit www.debeersgroup.com.

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Keywords: Diversity & Inclusion | Corporate Social Responsibility | De Beers Group | Employee Engagement | Gender Equality | Jobs | Reduced Inequalities | Responsible Business & Employee Engagement | Sustainability | Women | Workplace Inclusion

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