Professional Jeweler Archive: Women in the Boardroom

January 2005

Adventures in Professionalism

Women in the Boardroom

How to get to the top

By Lynn Ramsey, Public Relations Chair, Women's Jewelry Association

The Women’s Jewelry Association begins its 22nd year with 10 chapters and 1,245 members, and we delight in the growing number of women who hold important leadership positions in our industry. We know their names, follow their trajectories with admiration and bask in their glow.

Yet we have to ask why women aren’t better represented in the boardrooms of public corporations and trade associations in our industry? The percentage of women in these inner sanctums, where industry and corporate policy is forged, is less than 20% on average. Some WJA board members present their opinions:

Anna Martin, senior vice president, International Diamond & Jewelry Group, ABN AMRO Bank and WJA president: “Many intelligent and talented women are available in our industry who would add tremendous value to a governing board. But if these women aren’t well-known and don’t hold key positions recognized in the industry, they must self-promote, network and lobby for board positions.”

Helene Fortunoff, president, Fortunoff Fine Jewelry and past WJA president: “The qualifications for appointment to governing boards are not those most women in the jewelry business pursue in their educations and business paths. Corporate sophistication and political activity require time, which many women do not have, given the duality of their lifestyles as wives, mothers or caretakers.”

Peggy Kirby, former vice president of Finlay Fine Jewelry, now retired: “While there have been striking stories of success in large corporations, it seems many women have been carving a niche for themselves with success in being their own boss ... and not going the corporate route.”

Michelle Orman, president of Lüp/Reel Jewelry: “A ‘boys club’ mentality still dominates certain companies and organizations. As with a lot of situations where men are the dominant force, many qualified and capable women are hesitant to raise their voices, to volunteer their services or to get involved.”

Tina Segal, Tina Segal Collections, past WJA president: “One reason there are not more women on boards is that men don’t think about it.”

Sue Fritz, vice president of marketing and communications, Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co.: “Women’s representation in our boardrooms is evolutionary. Jewelers Mutual’s board of directors is chaired by a woman, Patti Geolat. Women have made great strides, but there’s a lot more to accomplish.”

How to Rise to the Top

  • If you want to serve on an industry board, make people aware of your interests and qualifications.
  • Volunteer on one or two industry charity committees.
  • Have someone else sing your praises.
  • Spend time and money to support the organization’s programs and policies.
    Understand how boards function.
  • Develop your knowledge and expertise in the financial and management aspects of the jewelry industry.
  • Work on your negotiation, image and presentation skills.
  • Join WJA. Go to
  • Attend the WJA “Women in the Know” Conference on March 4 in New York City (see page 77 for details).

Copyright © 2005 by Bond Communications