Professional Jeweler Archive: Women in the Know

July 2004

Managing/Careers and Customers

Women in the Know

A WJA conference tackles topics such as what women and men have learned from each other, tomorrow's customers and networking

The Women’s Jewelry Association and Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America recently presented a conference for professional women called “Women in the Know.” Though aimed at women, the day-long event imparted information useful to all managers. The event was chaired by Caroline Stanley of Red Jewel Inc. and was cosponsored by ABN AMRO Bank, Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co. and Keystone Findings. Here’s a sample of discussions at the conference.

– by Peggy Jo Donahue

Shared Knowledge

Women have brought new perspectives to management, but they’ve also learned from men

Women entered the jewelry industry in record numbers over the past 30 years and now hold key management positions. The “Women in the Know” conference gathered five executives from retail and supply businesses to discuss what women and men have learned from each other. Hedda Schupak, editor in chief of JCK, moderated. Here’s a summary of their observations:

Collaborative Management: Women championed collaborative management. As a result, employees participate more in decision-making and bring valuable bottom-up ideas to senior managers.

Family Issues: Women spearheaded more flexibility where families are concerned, which has helped employers attract and keep key workers.

Knowledge of Jewelry: Women “get” jewelry and the shopping process and have brought those skills and insights to the creation and marketing of these precious goods at wholesale and retail.

The Male Perspective: Women have learned things from men, including more assertive selling skills and less emotional reactions in business situations, say the panel members. Men also have taught women not to take things personally in business. “Men are not fazed by pot shots – they know the higher you fly, the more you’re going to get shot at,” says Andrea Hill of The Bell Group/Rio Grande.

Male vs. Female Bosses: Panelists concurred there is no advantage to having a male or female boss – all said they had seen both do the job well and poorly. The dated idea that men are generally nice bosses while women are often nasty ones has faded.

WJA panel members discuss female perspectives in business. From left, Geri Bondanza, vice president of Michael Bondanza; Nancy Brewer, owner of Nancy B & C0.; Anna Martin, senior vice president of ABN AMRO International Diamond and Jewelry Group; Andrea Hill of The Bell Group, which owns Rio Grande; and Esther Fortunoff Greene, executive vice president of Fortunoff. Photo by Ron Saltiel Productions.

Glimpsing the Future

Customer demographics are changing rapidly

What trends will affect how you sell jewelry in the future? Futurist Edie Weiner, president of Weiner, Edrich, Brown Inc., has some ideas.

Physical Challenges

Many more people than you realize are physically challenged at some point in their lives, including pregnant women, parents with children in strollers, the obese, those with carpal tunnel syndrome or asthma, people who have trouble reading small type and weekend athletes with injuries. Thus, you should look at everything through the eyes of someone coping with limitations. Make typefaces in printed material larger and clearer. Make clasps easier to manipulate. Offer services for the homebound. Keep store aisles wide and open. Plan a child-friendly area in your store.


Older customers are varied today – they can be getting married for the first or fifth time. They can have children or stepchildren from adult to infant. Never assume a woman is the mother of the bride or that the baby gift is for a grandchild. Show seniors sport watches, and talk about jewelry for active people.


Renting or leasing luxury products or services is a growing trend. The practice of lending jewelry for awards shows has led smaller jewelers to lend important pieces to local “celebrities.” The next step: a formal fee-based rental program.

New Luxury

Luxury now means getting something personably valuable, such as more time, less stress, more power and heightened relationships. To fulfill these needs, visit customers at their offices or homes. Keep track of their important dates and preferences and provide choices that make buying jewelry easy. Create marketing programs showing fine jewelry and timepieces are the ultimate symbols of power and love.

Customized Networking

Make your own rules for success

Most jewelry industry managers understand the value of networking, but many don’t do it because they presume it’s too challenging, says Diane K. Danielson, president of DWC Services. Not true, says Danielson, who has written a book on the topic. Follow her suggestions to make networking comfortable for you.

  • To avoid burnout, focus only on one or two great organizations that can help you most.
  • Join committees and boards. Volunteer. “You’ll immediately have 10 new best friends,” says Danielson.
  • If you’re uncomfortable with new people, talk with an event’s speaker, who is often unfamiliar with the crowd and might appreciate your overture. Approach groups of three instead of two – they’re less likely to be having a private discussion. Take tickets at the door – you’ll meet everyone at least once.
  • If you’re trapped by a bore, excuse yourself to speak to others. Speak only with people you’d have fun sitting next to on an airplane. If you’re at an event that’s clearly a dud, bail.
  • Wear clothes you like, regardless of dress code. Feel comfortable or self-consciousness will inhibit you. Wear an item that can spark conversations, such as an eye-popping brooch, cool tie tack or hobby-related cuff links.
  • Talk about your hobbies and passions. Outside interests are good conversation-starters and make you memorable.
Photo by Ron Saltiel Productions. Networking at the “Women in the Know” conference (from left) are Caroline Stanley of Red Jewel Inc., conference chair; Anna Martin, senior vice president of ABN AMRO International Diamond and Jewelry Group, speaker and sponsor; Edie Weiner, keynote speaker; and Sue Fritz, vice president of marketing and communications for Jewelers Mutual, another sponsor.

Copyright © 2004 by Bond Communications