International Women’s Day on March 8th has been recognized for over 100 years. It’s a time to celebrate women’s achievements and accomplishments, but it also exists to raise awareness about women's equality issues that are still with us.
In that regard, I’d like to highlight my own jewelry and diamond industry as an example of workplace achievements and ongoing challenges. Since our family lost our beloved mother, Helene, not long ago, I’ll start with her.
Helene was an incredible role model in the industry and began working in our family business decades before the modern women’s movement was in full swing. She ended up being an example for a whole generation of industry women who followed her, including my sister and me.
Along with others, she helped found the Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA) so that women in the industry would be able to host the kind of networking events that were often not open to us then. Once WJA events became popular, men in the industry began to realize that they needed to attend, too - especially if they wanted to gain access to movers and shakers like my Mom.
Today, women serve as CEOs of several of the jewelry industry’s most prominent nonprofits, such as the American Gem Society and the Gemological Institute of America. They play the same role at some of our largest retail chains and manufacturers. Women also now serve on the boards of most big jewelry and diamond organizations, and, in the best examples, they constitute at least half of the boards.
But there are still challenges, especially among women who work at smaller companies. A 2019 WJA gender equality survey showed that nearly half of employees witnessed discrimination or harassment in the jewelry workplace.
Like most industries, mine still has some way to go. But for today, I’m imagining how pleased my mother would be at all the progress that has occurred in her industry – and will continue during the lives of her daughters and granddaughters, I am sure. Let’s all keep it up.