When women thrive, humanity thrives: an open letter
I am writing to you from the women’s pavilion at Expo 2020, which feels like a melting pot right now. The focus is on the central role women have played throughout history. The mood is electric, and the motto is: “When women thrive, humanity thrives.”
With this as my vantage point, I feel especially grateful to have the privilege of reaching out to you on International Women’s Day with a message that is deeply close to my heart, and that I have the sincerest hope will resonate with you too.
As is well known within our industry, women drive demand for more than 90% of the world’s jewellery. Their tastes and preferences shape the market and influence decisions at every level. Also, women make up a huge percentage of the workforce in the industry – up to 50% in many parts of the world. Even though considerable progress has been made to address the challenges facing women in retail facing operations and at executive levels, much less attention has been given to those involved in vulnerable, precarious and often lower-income work, especially women involved in artisanal scale mining. If anything, the pandemic has made them more prone to vulnerability.
In a sobering finding, the World Economic Forum reports that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the gender gap by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years. It has exacerbated the gender pay gap to the disadvantage of women with family responsibilities, due largely to the childcare and educational requirements imposed by COVID-related closures and lockdowns. Across the globe, women earn less, save less, hold less secure jobs, are more likely to be employed in the informal sector. They have less access to social protections and are the majority of single-parent households. Their capacity to absorb economic shocks is therefore less than that of men.
Also, the rapidly accelerating climate crisis affects women and girls disproportionately and as is now widely recognised, creates a self-fulfilling vicious circle. By which I simply mean that we cannot save the planet from the impending climate emergency without meaningful advances in women’s rights and gender equality.