With her promotion to MD of diamond mining company Lucara Botswana in 2018, Naseem Lahri became the first woman, and the first Motswana woman, to serve in this capacity for a diamond mining company in Botswana.
Lucara Botswana is a subsidiary of Lucara Diamond Corp, which owns the Karowe mine, in Botswana. The openpit mine is expected to be in operation to 2026, with further underground potential.
Lahri is an accomplished professional accountant with 22 years of experience and more than 17 years of experience in the mining industry.
She served as Lucara Botswana’s CFO and director since March 2013, responsible for finance, administration and security and was then promoted to MD in May 2018.
“It is an honour, privilege and huge responsibility to hold this title. It is a role that will give me the opportunity to sell and drive the Botswana diamond story. To be an ambassador to show that Batswana are products of the diamonds mined in Botswana. I am a product of diamonds mined in Botswana.
"I am born in Botswana, did all my schooling in Botswana. Achieved my degree and professional qualifications in Botswana all as a result of the diamond industry and how the funds were brought back into the development of the nation and country,” enthuses Lahri.
“I am proud to say that I am the first Motswana female to run a diamond mining company. I am proof that with determination, hard work and not accepting any limitations as a woman one can achieve great results and perform in a male dominated field like mining. The road to success is never easy, but for as long as one is determined despite the ups and downs, if focused and purposeful they can achieve their dreams,” she adds.
Since assuming the role of MD, Lahri has already recorded notable achievements. She indicates that this includes making Lucara Botswana the employer of choice; recording significant growth in the brand locally; and providing equal opportunity to Batswana through eliminating any gender discrimination, with both men and women given an equal opportunity to progress.
Moreover, she notes that there is now an increased awareness of Botswana diamonds and that the company has recorded its best performing years in relation to safety and production since she has taken over.
However, she does not intend to stop there. Lahri highlights that she aims to grow the asset locally to increase the bottom line for the company and the country.
Moreover, she wants to ensure that the company empowers the communities that it operates in, to ensure sustainability beyond the life-of-mine.
She also aims to continuously put Botswana on the map for the quality diamonds the company produces, and the technology that it uses.
Lahri says that, most importantly, she aims to continually remind the world of the benefits that diamond revenue provides for Botswana and Batswana.
LEADING THE WAY
In terms of gender inclusivity and quality, Lahri says Lucara is far ahead compared with other companies in the industry.
She explains that at the group level, 75% of the executive team are women, while at a local level, it is 67%.
“This is something for other companies to benchmark against. It is a phenomenal achievement. The number of women at the top was achieved organically due to the inclusive nature of Lucara,” she acclaims.
Lahri notes that her promotion, especially in Botswana, has put pressure on other mining houses to follow suit and to be more gender inclusive.
“The country we live in has always promoted gender equality. Botswana was the first country to have a female Minister at independence. The honourable Minister ran the mining portfolio. The country has the right laws in place. It’s just that companies were not gender inclusive or equal. Now you are seeing more companies being gender neutral and inclusive,” she explains.
Lahri emphasises the importance of companies providing equal opportunity to all. She posits that if this is done organically, there will be more women at the forefront.
“I personally believe the industry can do more to get women in the forefront. They are coming along but not fast enough,” she says.
Moreover, Lahri says industries such as mining need to be more progressive in relation to gender equality, and not limiting people in terms of what they can and cannot do.
This advice comes from anecdotal wisdom, with Lahri mentioning that it was a challenge from an industry perspective for her to make it to the MD or CEO level.
“In my road to MD I was always told I was not technical enough to oversee a mining company. It is only when I moved to Lucara I saw this as an achievable goal. This was mainly due to the progressive leadership that ran the company.
It took me 17 years to get to the position I am in. It wasn’t difficult to get to a senior position in the executive team as I was in an admin role. The difficulty was around heading the organisation. Firstly, because I was an accountant. It is not considered technical in the mining fraternity and secondly, I am a woman. So, I had two things working against me.
"Mining was always a male-dominated industry and wasn’t very conducive for females to move up the ranks especially in the technical arena. Therefore, making it difficult for females to progress,” she explains.
“An inclusive environment will yield great results from a gender equality perspective and will show an increased number of women in the forefront. It has statistically been proven that women-run organisations show an increased bottom line within two years.
Additionally, there’s substantial evidence that gender diversity at the management level enhances a company’s performance,” she highlights.