Iconic French luxury jewelry and watchmaker Cartier may have been founded by a man, but its Cartier Women’s Initiative is putting females at the forefront.
Started in 1847 by Louis- François Cartier in Paris, France, Cartier became the official purveyor of numerous royal courts early on, earning a reputation as the king of jewelers and the jeweler of kings. While Cartier has upheld its elite status among royalty and celebrities for 175 years, it has become increasingly conscientious of its power to make a positive impact on people from all walks of life — especially female business owners.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative (CWI) was established in 2006 as part of the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society, an international platform elevating women’s initiatives for change by French communications company Publicis Groupe. CWI is an annual international impact entrepreneurship program open to women-owned and women-run businesses from any country and sector that aims to have a strong and sustainable social and/or environmental impact. Collectively, participants’ businesses have contributed to all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations. The sectors impacted have been diverse, including pharmaceuticals, e-learning and agriculture, as well as fashion and beauty. Not only does Cartier recognize these entrepreneurs, but it also provides them with financial, social, and human capital support to grow their businesses and build their leadership skills.
“We find that a big part of our work is to create opportunities for role models and sisterhood amongst women impact entrepreneurs,” CWI global program director Wingee Sampaio told Real Leaders. “It’s amazing how empowering that is – when you are in company of someone who has been there, and done that, and also when you are in the company of others doing the same thing but in different parts of the world.”
So far, Cartier has supported 262 women entrepreneurs across 62 countries, granting over $6 million. To carry out the initiative, a small team based in Paris works with about 100 volunteers around the globe and is supported by strategic partner INSEAD, a graduate business school.
CWI is making a difference. It boosted the majority of its fellows’ self-confidence, gave them a sense of belonging, helped expand their network, and improved their visibility and business strategy, according to a 2021 survey in honor of CWI’s 15th anniversary. And many of these women are breaking new ground, as over half of fellows offer a product or service that is new to the world, with a quarter of them reporting that it is new in their country, the survey found.
“The beauty of female entrepreneurs lies in their ambition of creating change,” Sampaio said. “Perhaps most inspiring is how every woman entrepreneur in our program took action to a problem that many people have experienced, but never did anything about.”
2021 fellow Rebecca Hui found CWI’s support instrumental to accelerating her company, Roots Studio. Based in New York, New York, Rebecca founded Roots Studio in 2017 to help rural communities around the world to digitize their cultural heritage into intellectual property for licensing.
“I have felt so powerful to be alongside the Cartier Women’s Initiative and their community of brilliant women,” Hui shared with Real Leaders. “Being a part of CWI has already created a lot of pathways for us forward, especially within the art and beauty industry. Having an association with Cartier helps us elevate the work of our artists and validates years of heart and hard work.”
Roots Studio has brought over 2,200 indigenous artists’ works from Asia, Africa, and Latin America to Western designers, textile manufacturers, and fashion companies. The process bridges cultures, reverses cultural loss and appropriation, and provides royalties that enable rural artists to make a living without having to leave home.
“We believe in the beauty of cultural sustainability by nurturing an equitable ecosystem where collective capacities and resource-sharing in the design realm can bring positive economic and social impact,” Roots Studio community engagement lead Laya Chirravuru said.
Cartier’s other notable people and planet-focused actions have included helping found the Responsible Jewelry Council in 2005; becoming carbon neutral in 2009; establishing Red Club x Cartier in 2019 to support risk-taking entrepreneurs doing good; and launching the Watch & Jewelry Initiative 2030 in 2021 to work toward industry sustainability and inclusivity.
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