Women have long worn jewelry, but have had lengthier roads to recognition on the industry’s business side. Sure, this is true across many product categories, but jewelry stands out more because most of it is made for women.
That’s why the past week’s series of empowering women’s events in New York City has been particularly inspiring. If you haven’t taken part in any or seen any pictures or tweets posted to social media, then here’s the skinny on what you missed.
Dinner and discussion with Diana Atieno of Porini Gems. The Metropolitan Chapter of the WJA hosted a dinner and chat on March 6 in Midtown with this Kenyan stone dealer. Atieno was in the U.S. for a limited time, having just exhibited at JCK Tucson—her first U.S. trade show. Her four-year-old gemstone business, Porini (Swahili for “into the jungle”), operates out of Nairobi, Kenya, where she sells rough gems like tourmaline and tsavorite, some of the latter from her own stone mine. Atieno told guests that she is the oldest of 12 kids in a family where no one works in jewelry, but that her passion for the product—“I loved seeing what the celebrities wore growing up,” she recollected—drove her to abandon a career in marketing to pursue her dream of selling gems. Atieno hires local women to make soapstone boxes and other types of packaging for her gems, many of which are cut by female cutters operating out of a school in Arusha, Tanzania, some four hours from Atieno’s home. What she can’t obtain from her own mine is purchased from stone dealers in other non-conflict parts of Africa, and she’s looking forward to growing Porini enough to give her miners much-needed benefits.
“I want to see more recognition of Africa’s contribution to the jewelry world,” she says. “But once you see a big piece [in the media], you never see Africa in the equation, just big jewelry names. You don’t see the effort, the energy, and the people who help it come to life, and I want more recognition for the efforts of the miners. I would also love to see them have healthcare and education for their children. A lot of mining companies do not offer those things.”
Third Annual March to End Violence Against Women by the United Nations. On Sunday afternoon, March 8, an intimate group of WJA members hit Midtown to march with others—men and women—who want to see women’s rights issues better recognized and rectified on International Women’s Day. The UN also enlisted speakers to inspire marchers with stories of survival and success, like actress AnnaLynne McCord, who revealed that she overcame sexual assault after keeping the incident a secret for 11 years. WJA Metro chapter members Michelle Graff of nationaljeweler.com, jewelry designer Julie Lamb, marketing professional Liz Levine-Kennedy and her husband, Robert, and yours truly mingled with activists fighting sexual trafficking and advocating for equal pay for women. We even had a visit from WJA Colorado chapter members Lilly Sinelnik of Kir Collection and industry marketing agent Manon Crespi, who joined us early on in the day.
WJA’s In The Know and In The Spotlight. Yesterday, several hundred people, mainly women, turned out for the annual educational event and evening soiree that celebrates each chapter’s Shining Stars, those who went above and beyond to serve at their chapter level. Keynote speakers like former senior VP of CBS news Marcy McGinnis and afternoon keynote speaker Jennifer Hyman, CEO and co-founder of Rent the Runway, dished on how they overcame obstacles to be successful. The day’s events are routinely an eye-opener for many who learn that success isn’t as quick or easy as others can make it seem.
Did you participate in any of these events? Please weigh in via the comment function about your favorite part. For me, I loved introducing Atieno to the Metro Chapter so we can help her grow her business.
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