De Beers hosts lunch for high school girls interested in STEM

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Olivia Laureijs shrugs off the notion that a male-dominated industry is one to shy away from.

Sidney Cohen/NNSL photo
Olivia Laureijs, a Grade 12 student at Ecole St. Patrick, knows she wants to pursue STEM in university, but had not considered working in the mining industry until watching the DeBeers presentation Friday, Nov. 17, 2017.
Nov. 17, 2017

“I want something that challenges me and I think that if you want to be great, you have to be willing to go above what other people have done,” said the Ecole St. Patrick student on Friday.

“Going into a male-dominated field would be a way to do that.”

Laureijs, who is in Grade 12, was one of about 45 young women from high schools in Yellowknife and Behchoko who attended a lunch and presentation by De Beers at Diamante Restaurant last week.

The event was aimed at young women interested in science, technology, engineering and math – also known as STEM fields.

De Beers wants to show young women that mining isn’t just for boys.

Right now, about 20 per cent of positions at De Beers are occupied by women, the company’s target market however, is around 90-per-cent women, said Allan Rodel, general manager of Gahcho Kue Mine

The lunch was part of the company’s push to increase diversity in its ranks.

Rodel said studies have shown that gender parity in leadership positions is “massively beneficial” for a company’s bottom line.

“Not only does it talk to our client base, but it actually talks to business. It’s the right thing to do for business,” said Rodel.

Part of that push includes offering De Beers-sponsored scholarships to the University of Waterloo for young women entering STEM areas of study.

The company also reached out to principals in Yellowknife and Behcheko, and asked them to identify students interested in STEM to attend the lunchtime presentation.

The young women watched a slide show describing the different jobs available at a mine, and were introduced to some of the women who do those jobs.

DeBeers wants more women in every role, said Rodel, from environmentalists to electricians.

Laureijs hadn’t considered a career in mining before Friday.

“Now I see that there are lots of opportunities for women in the mines and there’s lots of opportunities to do things like engineering and science and even wildlife stuff, so that was interesting,” she said.

Though she doesn’t know yet exactly what field she will go into, Laureijs said it’s important that she does something she loves and something that will make a difference in the world.

De Beers is set on hiring Northern women specifically.

“A lot of our socio-economic agreement levers talk to employment in the north,” said Rodel.

“We want to give back to the North.”

At the end of the presentation, the young women were given De Beers T-shirts.

Laureijs said a career in mining is something she “would be willing to do.”

“I really like the lifestyle,” she said.

“You get to do two weeks in, two weeks out and you get to be out on the land and do a lot of field work, which is something you don’t get in a lot of other science jobs.”

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