The Gender Equality report to be released by the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) at the September edition of Vicenzaoro, will examine the jewellery industry’s status on gender equality and provide steps for the private sector to make gender equality a priority, RJC Executive Director Iris Van der Veken tells Jewellery Outlook Editor David Brough on the eve of VicenzaOro, the first major jewellery trade fair taking place in Europe in 2021.
What report will the RJC be releasing at VicenzaOro later this month?
Given RJC’s continuing focus on centralising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within the business ethos of its members, we are proud to be releasing our first report on Gender Equality (SDG 5) at VincenzaOro. The report is titled “The Time is Now to Accelerate SDG 5 – Achieve Gender Equality and Empower All Women and Girls.”
This report will provide a current snapshot of the industry’s status on gender equality and emphasize the role of women in the jewellery and watch value-chains. It will use its findings to understand what companies are currently doing to support this agenda, and more importantly, provide concrete steps and tools that the private sector can make use of, to make gender equality a priority within their corporate culture.
We are launching this in collaboration with Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) and CIBJO, The World Jewellery Confederation, representing the interests of all individuals, organisations and companies earning their livelihoods from jewellery .., and many other key stakeholders in the industry — United Nations Global Compact, IMPACT, World Diamond Council, Women’s Jewelry Association, and several of our RJC members.
During March and April 2021, we hosted four virtual roundtables spanning four continents – North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa – to enable industry-wide learning and sharing of mutual challenges and workable solutions related to advancing gender equality, diversity and inclusion efforts. We also conducted a survey of RJC members on diversity and inclusion progress and challenges. The said report encapsulates our learnings and findings from these sessions.
Why is this report important?
This is the first time the global watch and jewellery industry provides a collective view on the status of gender equality in the industry. Stakeholders across a diverse range of industry organisations have come together to collaborate, to drive change and to collectively acknowledge that the time for action is now.
Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
There has been progress over the last decades: more girls are going to school, fewer girls are forced into early marriage, more women are serving in parliament and in positions of leadership in the corporate world, and laws are being reformed to advance gender equality.
Despite these gains, many challenges remain: discriminatory laws and social norms remain pervasive, women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of political leadership, and 1 in 5 women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 report experiencing physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner within a 12-month period.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic could reverse the limited progress that has been made on gender equality and women’s rights. The coronavirus outbreak exacerbates existing inequalities for women and girls across every sphere – from health and the economy, to security and social protection.
Women play a disproportionate role in responding to the virus, including as frontline healthcare workers and carers at home. Women’s unpaid care work has increased significantly as a result of school closures and the increased needs of older people. Women are also harder hit by the economic impacts of COVID-19, as they disproportionately work in insecure labour markets. Nearly 60 per cent of women work in the informal economy, which puts them at greater risk of falling into poverty.
The pandemic has also led to a steep increase in violence against women and girls. With lockdown measures in place, many women are trapped at home with their abusers, struggling to access services that are suffering from cuts and restrictions. Emerging data shows that, since the outbreak of the pandemic, violence against women and girls – and particularly domestic violence – has intensified. (https://unric.org/en/sdg-5/)
The private sector at large has a shared responsibility to act on SDG 5 and strive for gender equality, a responsibility which the global watch and jewellery industry takes very seriously. Companies in our industry, both upstream and downstream in the supply chain, have different opportunities to engage in and support gender equality. The dialogues and engagements held to date make it clear that industry-wide collaboration is essential to tackle systemic and structural challenges. Collaboration is also good for businesses, which can build more resilient supply chains, reduce costs, improve productivity, overcome systemic barriers, and enhance brand value.
We hope to enable progress within individual organisations in the industry as well as facilitate the level of collaboration and industry co-ordination that is needed to tackle the systemic challenges of gender inequality.
How will RJC be showcasing the report findings at VicenzaOro?
I will be announcing the launch of our report in collaboration with CIBJO, at the “Sustainable Development Goals: Meeting Their Challenge” seminar at Vicenza, a panel discussion hosted by CIBJO and organised by the Italian Exhibition Group.
I will have the pleasure and privilege to speak in a panel discussion specifically on SDG 5 – Gender Equality – with fellow colleagues from De Beers, PACT, and Swiss Better Gold Association. We will announce the release of our report and outline why the RJC believes strongly in the criticality and urgency of advancing gender equality.
Iris Van der Veken
What are some of the key challenges on Gender in our industry and what are the recommendations?
Women’s roles in jewellery supply chains have been conditioned by existing gender disparities, skewing them towards lower skilled activities where they are not fully rewarded or recognised. Also, the focus of public commitments from companies has been largely related to women in retail-facing operations and corporate leadership, and less to lower-income roles in the supply chain. For progress to span the value chain, it is crucial to expand gender considerations to the entire jewellery supply chain.
Many of the larger companies have made commitments, including increasing the number of women in executive-level positions across major jewellery brands. However, the progress on women needs to extend across the entire value chain and take into account that women in upstream operations experience business-related human rights abuses in unique ways and are often affected disproportionately.
Our report shares the results of the ‘Generation Equality SDG 5 in Action’ roundtables and workshops by taking stock of industry progress and key opportunities that enhance gender equality under 4 key themes:
- Key commitments and business policies
- Talent attraction, retention and training
- Creating a culture of inclusion, and
- Value-chain initiatives
Within the report, each theme includes survey results, key findings from the roundtable discussions, tips from peer organisations, and industry case studies.
What other events will you be joining at the show?
Alongside the CIBJO seminar “Sustainable Development Goals: Meeting Their Challenge”, I am delighted to join the esteemed panel discussion ‘Women of Jewellery’ which will focus on the importance of diversity, inclusion, and feminine wisdom in the jewellery Industry.
The panel has been created from a selection of women included in the book ‘100 Women of Jewelry’ by Linda Kozloff-Turner and is intended to offer a spectrum of diverse perspectives from within the industry. The discussion will offer problem-solving regarding some of the issues that women encounter, and will explore creating environments with equal opportunity and implementing a global infrastructure for safe working conditions in the jewellery industry.