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Female Leaders: Chika Edeh

Chika is the Head of Investor Relations and Public Relations at Bushveld Minerals, a London listed mining company. Prior to joining Bushveld Minerals, Chika spent six years at BHP Billiton in London and Melbourne, working in several finance functions. Chika holds a Master's in Finance and Investments from Cass Business School, a Master's in Chemical Process Engineering and a Bachelor's in Chemistry from University College London. Chika was born and raised in Italy and lived in Rome for most of her teenage years before moving to London. Chika is of Nigerian and Zimbabwean descent. She speaks English and Italian and is also learning French. She is passionate about travelling and spends most of her free time travelling across Africa and supports a number of charities focused on young girls’ education.

You have a Master’s in Finance and Investments, Chemical Process Engineering and a Bachelor’s in Chemistry. Has education always been important to you? Education is a key passion of mine. When I was younger, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do but I knew that science and maths would provide me with a range of transferable skills that could be used in just about any occupation or industry. I am a believer in education opening so many doors, which is the key driver behind a lot of my volunteering work.

You volunteer in Africa and work for charities that have a focus on young girls’ education. Have you always had a passion for giving back to the community?

When I was younger my parents would take me and my siblings to places where less privileged children lived. As a result of those experiences, I knew I had to help educate and support those less fortunate than I. I joined several different organisations, such as Room to Read,and have sponsored children in Zimbabwe to help them pursue further education. I firmly believe in giving back. World change begins with education.

What do you love most about the industry you work in?

The Natural Resources sector is an incredible industry to work in. The sector has an impact on everyone’s’ lives given that we use natural resources daily. I love being a part of an industry that makes a difference and impacts the world and enjoy seeing how much benefit it brings - not just in terms of the improvement of lifestyle, but also in employment opportunities and the development of communities. If you want to have a purpose and do something that helps the world, then this is the industry you should consider working in.

Have you seen any major changes over the course of your career, in terms of what it’s like to be a woman working in a male dominated industry?

When I first started my career, I had very few female colleagues. In the last two or three years, there has been a big push to have more women working in this industry, especially in senior management positions, as well as a continued drive to achieve gender balance across different functions. It’s great to see that transformation is happening. There has been a noticeable increase in the recruitment and promoting of women. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go.

How do we attract more women into the Natural Resources industry?

The mining industry has one of the lowest number of women on boards of any industry group in the world. Corporates need to take an active step in recruiting more women into this field. Encouraging recruitment and career development across the gender line is essential.

Education plays a part in this, as women are historically less likely to stay in mathematics and science education, which tend to feed into these industries. We need to be reaching out to girls at GCSE and, at sixth form level. We need to be promoting STEM subjects to young girls, making them aware of the types of jobs available within these male dominated industries.

In addition, the industry needs to make more accommodation for women. For example, workplaces will have to become more flexible and innovative in their approach to their female staff. A change of attitudes is needed.

Female Lead women believe in finding strength in setbacks. Are there any obstacles you’ve had to overcome that have defined who you are today?

Two years ago, I lost one of my closest friends to suicide. It was a very difficult period of my life, but it’s made me who I am today. I am more aware of depression and the importance of talking openly about it. I want young people to realise that no situation is permanent. You might be stuck in a dead-end job, or a position that is challenging and you don’t really see the light at the end of the tunnel. Remember that change is the only thing that is constant.

Furthermore, depression is often perceived as a stigma within the black community. I am determined to be involved with various charities and organisations to help fight this stigma.

Do you have any particular female role models, mentors or support systems that have been invaluable in your professional and personal journey?

My role model is my mum. I grew up watching her always striving to be the best she could be. She always had goals and worked hard for herself and her family. My mum has been the person that has encouraged me to follow my passions and dreams and to not be scared of being different and pushing boundaries. Her most favourite saying is “it is not who you are that holds you back, it is who you think you are not”. But of course, I have role models which I have never met but who constantly inspire and motivate me like Malala Yousafzai and Serena Williams.

I encourage everyone to gain a mentor or a role model. It doesn’t have to be just one, you can have a mentor for the different aspects of your life, your personal life and your corporate life. Mentorship is something I encourage to everyone and I try to do as much of it as I can.

As you look ahead to 2019, what would you like to achieve?

I’m looking to get more involved with charities in South Africa that support young girls through education. I want to progress in my career and continue to mentor women in male dominated industries. In the near future, I plan to set up my own Investor Relations consultancy firm.

What advice would you give to girls and young women as they consider their future?

Find something you are passionate about, do the research and understand what you need to do in order to excel in it. At times you might be faced with challenges however always remember that the comeback is stronger than the setback!

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