When you think of Cartier, you might think of the recognizable Juste un Clou (translation: just a nail) bangles seen on the wrists of some of today’s chicest trendsetters.
But Cartier's best kept secret is perhaps its annual annual Women’s Initiative Awards which has provided funding, mentorship opportunities, and a platform to women-run impact-driven businesses since 2006.
The winners of the 2019 Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards
Courtesy of Cartier
Last week, Cartier, in partnership with the Women’s Forum, McKinsey & Company and INSEAD business school, announced this year’s seven winners from applicants across the globe. They include:
South Korea’s Yeon Jeong Cho, whose online language service trains retired seniors in Korea and connects them to Korean language learners worldwide.
Philippines’ Carmina Bayombong, whose investment platform provides student loans to underserved youth using a proprietary credit rating algorithm.
France’s Zineb Agoumi, whose affordable space-saving and connected gait rehabilitation device secures patients at the pelvis and monitors their progress.
Mexico’s Liza Velarde, whose blood test detects the presence of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in cancer patients, enabling physicians to better monitor progress of the disease.
United Arab Emirates’ Hibah Shata, whose learning centre offers behavioral therapy and educational support to children and young adults with special needs.
United States’ Ran Ma, whose smart socks for diabetics monitor foot temperature and guard against foot ulcers.
Cameroon’s Manka Angwafo, whose services enhance African food supply chains through affordable asset-based financing to smallholder farmers.
Jeanne Toussaint (1887-1976) in her Rue de la Paix office at the end of the 1950s
Archives Cartier © Cartier
Cartier’s desire to support female entrepreneurship emerged from the brand’s roots. They set a precedent for strong female leadership by naming Jeanne Toussaint its creative director back in the 1930s. And, as Mercedes Abramo, Cartier's North America President & CEO explains, the jeweler has always been at the forefront of innovati0n. “Very early on, we were pioneers in using new materials, looking for new gemstones, traveling the world and getting inspiration from all around for our products,” Abramo says. “And having this kind of exposure to women entrepreneurs and creating this kind of program allows us to now bring forward new original ideas that need support.”
Lupita Nyong’o in conversation
Courtesy of Cartier
This year's awards were themed “The Ripple Effect” and the collective support for each woman's internationally-derived ideas and efforts was felt throughout San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture where the event was held. From the powerhouse speakers like actress Lupita Nyong’o, American journalist and writer Maria Shriver, and CEO of Cartier International, Cyrille Vigneron, to the finalists who offered each other open-armed embraces and considerably kind words for a competition, it was clear that the impact of these awards runs deep.
Lupita Nyong’o after winning the Oscar for her role in 12 Years a Slave
“I’m a living testament of the power of awards,” commented Lupita Nyong’o who recognized that winning the Oscar for her first feature film, 12 Years a Slave, opened doors for her in ways she had never seen before in the industry. “[Awards] are a time to encourage and grow, and give confidence to someone with an idea that reflects a better world. A better chance. A better perspective.”
That need to create a better reality for female entrepreneurs could not have been more apparent after hearing about the problems many of these women still face. From finding it difficult to be taken seriously to lacking a network of relatable mentors and still being asked questions like “Do you plan to have a baby?” in investor meetings, the 21 female finalists from around the world painted a daunting image of what it’s like to try and make it in business as a woman today.
Maria Shriver at the 2019 Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards
Courtesy of Cartier
“These are political issues. They are work places issues. They are women’s issues. Increasingly, they are men’s issues as well,” said Maria Shriver, who wished her daughters and son had been there to share in the experience. “For every woman to realize that when she stands up, opens her mouth, pushes against the status quo, she’s creating the ripple effect. She’s actually creating a tidal wave.”
Now, thanks to programs like the Women’s Initiative Awards, which generously offers the funding and mentorship without asking for any equity in return, there are more examples of how to trigger that tidal wave from a corporate level. “It’s a gift. They are not investing into the company. [The prize money] goes straight into the entity,” explained 2017 laureate Katie Anderson, who remains the sole owner of Save Water & Co., a company that combats water waste through data analytics. “To me, this is the future of what giving looks like.”
For more information on the Women’s Initiative Awards, please visit https://www.cartierwomensinitiative.com/