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Parker Curry stares upwards at Michelle Obama’s portrait at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Photo credit: Ben Hines.

International Women's Day message from Rosh Bardien, our EVP: People and Organisational Effectiveness

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Dear Colleagues

There is a photograph that went viral on social media recently. It’s a picture of a little girl staring, open-mouthed in awe, at a portrait of Michelle Obama in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. The child, Parker Curry (3), stands looking upward, dwarfed by the enormous painting of one of the world’s most famous women.

The photograph struck a chord with me for many reasons, but most particularly because it encapsulates the fact that the representation of women in all spheres of life matters. It matters not only because women can and should take up the full spectrum of roles in business and civil society, and that in doing so they add depth and value – we know this already, thanks to a wealth of research that shows that gender diverse organisations are strengthened immeasurably by what women bring to the table.

The reason it really matters – and what was captured so powerfully in this photograph – is because it sends a message to those women and girls who aspire to play an important role in society, that their dream can become a reality.

Michelle Obama knows this. When the painting was unveiled she said, “I’m thinking about all the young people, particularly girls and girls of colour who in years ahead will come to this place, and they will look up and they will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American institute.”

What can this teach us in the world of business? Firstly, that if we want to attract the best and brightest young minds of tomorrow (half of which will be women), we need to show them that they are coming to a place where they are powerfully represented.

Secondly, it teaches the women at Gold Fields that we carry a great weight of responsibility. We are the examples that other women and girls look up to. We represent the embodiment of their dreams to join the world of business, to be successful in an industry historically dominated by men and one where its notoriously tough to ‘make it’. Maya Angelou said, “Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women,” and this could not be more true. (To view an inspirational video of her poem celebrating women click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egrQH2UTaWE)

Many women think that International Women’s Day is a day set aside to make them feel special. Many men believe it’s a day to offer their support, but is nevertheless an occasion in which they are only a sideline feature. I don’t believe either of these views is correct. For women, it’s a day to take responsibility for the personal example we set to future generations. For men, it’s a day to take responsibility for the role they can play in helping to build gender diverse teams that can add real value to the business bottom line.

In all the countries in which we operate, there are girls and young women who dream of holding positions like the ones occupied by women across Gold Fields. Like the little girl in the photograph they are looking for a powerful symbol that shows them what is achievable. We all have the chance to create this kind of “Smithsonian moment” for someone. This Women’s Day, let’s start looking for ways in which we can make that happen.

Yours in safe delivery
Rosh


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