Words by Women’s Jewellery Network managing director, Victoria McKay
Well, isn’t this exciting… and more than a little daunting! Especially writing this issue’s foreword, which is essentially an open letter to the jewellery industry.
It’s been an amazing experience creating this issue. My Women’s Jewellery Network (WJN) colleagues, Kathryn Bishop and Nyasha Pitt, are experts in crafting insightful content. I’m astonished at how much work goes into an issue and it’s left me even more impressed by Stacey Hailes, whose evolution as editor I have long admired.
Further, as we have created this edition together, I have been reassured that Professional Jeweller aligns with the WJN ethos and we are also pleased to have Hockley Mint back our efforts through sponsoring this special issue.
Alongside providing the industry with insight into what the WJN stands for, this issue presents me with the opportunity to update you on what I’ve been up to of late. I recently got married, relocated back to the UK after 18 months in sunny Spain, and I am now officially a young empty nester. As well as running the WJN, I’m also the CEO of a digital banking platform, providing solutions to the diamond industry.
I’ve not always had a simple life, however. At 19, while working for a blue-chip firm, I fell pregnant shortly after receiving a promotion. At 12 weeks, I told my manager, who went on to terminate my employment because they and the divisional managers ‘didn’t see the point in investing in me’. These decision makers were women.
Eight years ago, I was interviewed by three men to run a UK jewellery trade organisation. Those same three men went on to support me in this role when I requested board permission to incorporate the WJN.
When I entered our industry, key individuals supported me. Varda Shine, arguably the most influential woman in diamonds, schooled me over breakfast meetings. Precious metals heavyweight Stella Layton taught me to own my opinion and to let an organisation breathe. And Harry Levy, one of the most highly respected people in the global diamond industry, was selfless in sharing knowledge, experience and contacts, while pushing for my presence at the board table.
These leaders believe an improved industry is achieved through collaboration. Having an executive position is a privilege with responsibility to ensure that opportunities are equal for everyone. The WJN exists because such people were supportive and led by example, and this ethos now underpins everything we do.
Yet, I’ve had industry figureheads challenge the WJN’s existence, with one senior female leader commenting: “While I’m the only woman in the boardroom, it’s easier for me to shine, so it doesn’t help me if I support other women.”
We’re here to change this attitude. If we, as an industry, do not champion each other and be the change we wish to see, how can we evolve and grow as an industry? The WJN is proud to be a safe space that supports not only women but people of all genders, celebrating equality for all — for the benefit of our trade.
These and many more themes are explored in this issue. We hope you enjoy it, learn something new, and share that knowledge with your peers.