Meet the Rebel Women of the Diamond World

What makes a great female Managing Director? And what does it take to climb into a giant 700-degree volcano for scientific research, launch a national organization that fights for women’s equality in the workplace, or create a platform that helps thousands of women develop their digital skills?

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Be inspired by real-life stories about women who dared to do things differently in the world of diamonds and beyond. Each has shattered their glass ceiling in a different way, be it through rising to the top of their profession, or by opening doors for more women and girls and to follow in their footsteps.

These are our role models, our ‘Rebel Women’ who have never taken no for an answer and who – most importantly – are contributing to a greener, healthier and more equal world.

Dr Alison Shaw

Leader of Project CarbonVault, Dr Alison Shaw is making breakthroughs in the world’s understanding of how kimberlite can be transformed into carbonated rock. Alison says “By mining kimberlite, you are actually exposing new rock surfaces that can absorb carbon and reduce carbon dioxide from emissions from the mine – and potentially beyond.”

The geologist, who grew up in Vancouver and went on to climb every volcano in Costa Rica and Nicaragua (avoiding rattle snakes and deadly drops) has also climbed to the top of her profession – but it wasn’t always plain sailing for Alison. “In the nineties there was a male focus in the industry and some companies said they weren’t interested in hiring women,” she explained. “When I asked why, they said they wanted strong guys to carry rocks and it would be too ‘hard’ for a woman – as if carrying rocks was hard!”.

Today, Alison is a senior Geochemist at Lorax Environmental Services, working with De Beers Group to understand the environmental impact of mining.

Marietjie Reynecke

The pioneer of Petra Diamonds’ program to phase out plastic and manage waste water and recycling, Marietjie’s team has reduced combined waste by 38% in two years. “We’ve also recycled between 95%-98% of water in our 115-year-old mine,” she tells us.

Animal conservation, particularly the tracking and protecting of South Africa’s Secretary Bird, is also something that Marietjie has been actively involved in within her environmental work for Petra Diamond, preventing many mortalities.

To help other women pursue rewarding careers in the diamond world, Marietjie is also part of Petra Diamonds’ ‘Women in Mining’ project. As a geologist and lover of the natural world, Marietjie says “It is only when we work together towards a common goal – ZERO HARM – that the environment will be protected and all living things will reap the benefits.”

Tofara Chokera

As an IT engineer at RZM Murowa, Tofara Chokera is making a direct impact on thousands of young Zimbabwean women through a digital learning platform she created called the “I want to reach untapped communities, to give them free digital skills they can use even if they can’t go to college or university,” says Tofara.

Proud to work for an equal opportunities employer, Tofara mentors interns joining the tech team. Her remarkable secret is until she was 20 she had no idea a ‘mouse’ was anything other than a rodent – because that was how old she was when she first accessed a computer. Little did Tofara know that this opportunity would change not only her future but that of thousands more young women like her.

Naseem Lahri

The first female Managing Director of Lucara Diamond, Naseem Lahri is a true force, passionately devoted not only to her company’s success, but to the wellbeing of men and women who work there. Her rise to the top has not been without challenges. It took a female CEO to see her potential for the role of MD, when Naseem had been struggling to advance from 16 years as CFO. From that point on, great things have happened.

“Before my promotion I was the only woman in the board room. After our new CEO, 75%  of the board is female. 70% of my exec team are women. The numbers are increasing,” she says.

The year that Naseem became MD, the company also improved its maternity leave policy, created more flexible working and lately, through COVID-19, has come up with schemes to support employees working from home with young children.