Cartier develops its program dedicated to female entrepreneurship
Empowering female entrepreneurs to drive change is the ultimate goal of the Cartier Women’s Initiative. The project launched in 2006 by the luxury jewelry firm aims to build an international community of female entrepreneurs, reward innovative ideas, and provide financial, social, and human capital support to businesses that create a positive social and environmental impact. With a 15-year track record under its belt, the program is gearing up for the next awards event in 2023 with the aim of continuing to grow and foster partnerships.
The initiative of the luxury brand owned by the Richemont group already has 262 members from 62 countries and has awarded a total of 6 million euros to previous winners. The registration period for future participants from any country or industry opened on May 16 and will close on June 30 on the company’s website.
"Women entrepreneurs drive economic growth and social and environmental impact but are still facing staggering barriers. Via the Cartier Women’s Initiative, we hope to drive change by empowering women impact entrepreneurs, by providing financial, social and human capital support," said Wingee Sampaio, global program director of the initiative. In 2023, the seven existing regional categories will be joined by French-speaking Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania.
This edition will also feature the annual Impact Awards honoring businesses that preserve the planet, improve living conditions in underprivileged communities and create opportunities, as well as a Science and Technology Pioneer Award and another newly created award dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion. While the other awards are exclusively limited to female applicants, the latter will be open to all genders.
A “safe space” for women
The projects awarded by the platform extend far beyond the luxury, fashion and jewelry sectors, with a diverse selection of categories ranging from artificial intelligence to educating communities. They all, however, share a pioneering spirit, a willingness to improve society, and face difficulties in developing their business in a corporate world dominated by economic profitability and men in key decision-making positions. The participants respond to these challenges with results driven by a sense of solidarity.
"In addition to increasing our visibility and gaining knowledge, contacts and funding, we feel we are in a safe space where we can share our insecurities and doubts in a women's initiative," explained Nneka Mobisson, founder of mDoc, a chronic disease treatment enterprise in Africa.
"You have to learn how to communicate with investors which is not an easy feat,” said Pakistani entrepreneur Mariel Salahuddin, who left a senior position in an energy company to launch a barter-based business that facilitates access to essential goods in rural communities. “The program has opened doors for us in terms of support, mentoring and funding to help scale our business," she said, "We are no longer considered a risky investment.”
"Being a female entrepreneur can be very isolating. Being part of this community allows us to share our ideas with women from all over the world, creating a network where projects come to life," explained Australian businesswoman Joanne Howarth, founder of the recycling company Planet Protector Packaging. This sentiment was shared by Temie Giwa-Tubosun, founder of the African medical data and distribution company Life Bank.
"I've never been to an event with so many women; I wish they were all like this. It makes you feel at ease and fuels you with energy. This platform is an opportunity to meet women who share the same problems: from how to raise funds to the best way to approach business meetings," said the entrepreneur, who was awarded during the last awards ceremony, which took place in March at the Dubai Opera House.
Rasha Rady, founder of the Egyptian medical monitoring platform Chefaa, was also optimistic. "There is a huge amount of change happening. Women are now also sitting around the table talking business," she said, underlining the positive impact and guaranteed credibility of having a company like Cartier’s support.
A commitment to gender equality at the Dubai Expo 2020
"If we want to find solutions to the many issues at hand, the most logical thing to do is to give women a voice. Gender issues start at home. We leaders and CEOs must set an example. It is our responsibility to correct poor behavior," said Cyrille Vigneron, chairman and CEO of Cartier, during a feminist speech delivered at an evening event on March 8, coinciding with International Women's Day.
The latest Cartier Women's Initiative ceremony took place under the impressive Al Wasln dome located at the heart of Dubai Expo 2020, held two years late due to the pandemic. Cartier not only celebrated the 15th anniversary of its awards, but also highlighted its commitment to gender equality by calling for collective action amidst a challenging landscape.
In front of a group of UAE representatives and hundreds of local and foreign guests, Cartier's CEO for the Middle East, India and Africa, Sophie Doireau, took the floor to condemn the war in Ukraine. "Equality, democracy and peace are an obligation for all generations,” she said.
The president of the European Commission, Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen, also addressed the crowd that same evening via a recorded video message. "We need all the talent in the world as well as fresh and innovative ideas to regenerate our economy. We cannot afford to leave women out. The time to act is now and we all carry responsibility. The cost of failing to react will be very high," she said at the gala where Cartier ambassador Rami Malek also made a speech defending women's rights.
"When women thrive, humanity thrives," said Reem Al Hashimy, UAE minister of state for international cooperation and CEO of Dubai Expo 2020, which hosted the first Women's Pavilion at a world expo after 3.5 years in the making. The space sponsored by Cartier featured insights and stories about remarkable women and explored concrete challenges and strategies towards achieving gender equality. An immersive art space was also developed in collaboration with French actress and filmmaker Melanie Laurent. Throughout the six-month-long event, the pavilion hosted 150 presentations by female ministers of equality from around the world and offered a learning program for children.
During that same day, Cartier, founded in 1847, held a series of seminars entitled "Break the Bias" in the exhibition's conference center. Participants were able to attend inspirational discussions joined by prominent figures from various different fields such as Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, former UAE minister of state for tolerance; Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook; Dr. Natalia Kanem, executive director of UNFPA; and actors Yara Shahidi, Hend Sabry and Edgar Ramirez.
"We have already considered our next steps in our ongoing efforts, which include strengthening cooperation and coalitions that bring together the public and private sectors," explained Vigneron regarding the continuation of the project and the Richemont group's next action plan for fighting gender inequality.
In the last fiscal year, Richemont ranked as the second largest luxury conglomerate in the world. The owner of companies such as Chloé, Montblanc and Yoox Net-a-porter recorded sales of €13.1 billion, down 8% from the €14.2 billion posted in 2020. The jewelry division, which includes brands Buccellati, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, accounted for 57% of total revenues, with sales of €7.5 billion, an increase from €7.2 billion a year earlier.
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