Women must claim their place in Latin American industry says WJH’s Senior Vice President during special gathering

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ABOVE:Ali Pastorini, WJH Senior Vice President, addressing the women’s empowerment session during the Second Latin American Diamond and Jewelry Week on June 23.

“We do not ask for special treatment,” stressed Ali Pastorini, Senior Vice President of the World Jewelry Hub, in her keynote address to the special session on women’s empowerment, which highlighted the third and final day of the Second Latin American Diamond and Jewelry Week on June 23.  “All we seek is the same opportunities as our male counterparts, without having to prove 20 times over that we are capable of leading. We do not ask to be given a step up or any unfair advantage. We just want a fair chance to help and decide what the best for the market.”

The following is the full text of Ms. Pastorini’s address:


Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you this special session at the Second Latin American Diamond and Jewelry Week, where our specific focus is the role and empowerment of women in the Latin American jewelry industry. My hope is that this will be a milestone event, where we will see the progress that we have made not only as a gender, but as an industry as well.

There is tendency on the part of people outside of Latin America, and even in the region, to see ourselves as behind the developed world. But today we are seated in the world’s youngest diamond, gemstone and jewelry exchange, which also happens to be first and only one of its type in Latin America.

And when it comes to women’s empowerment, Latin America is not necessarily as some may have thought.

Mercer, one of the world’s leading human resource consultants, recently released the 2016 edition of it review of gender equality in the workplace.

Worldwide, Mercer said, while there is an increased focus on hiring and promoting women into executive positions, females still only make up 35 percent of the average company’s workforce at the professional level and above. Globally, women make up 33 percent of managers, 26 percent of senior managers, and only 20 percent of executives. To put that into perspective, let us remember that women comprise 60 percent of the world’s population. Yes, you heard that well … we make up 60 percent of all the people on earth.

Right now, according to the Mercer study, only 17 percent of Latin America executives are women, which isn’t a statistic for us to be proud of, but this is the only region in the world that, according to the study, is likely to approach gender equality at the professional level and above by 2025. If trends continue as are right now, 44 percent of all business executives in Latin America are likely to be women nine years from now.

In fact, according to Mercer, Latin America is expected to be ahead of Europe in terms of workplace equality over the next ten years. There it forecasts that women will only make up 37 percent of managers at the professional level and above by 2025, which is about the same percentage as it is today.

I quote these statistics to show our potential.  But also emphasize must that we must not be complacent. The future is in our hands.

Now to be more specific about the jewelry business….

Internationally – and I say “internationally” because the situation is somewhat different in Panama and I will explain you why later – we are all members of a business sector where the majority of customers are women, but the company owners, senior managers and industry leadership are predominantly men.

This is a something that I have not accepted as a given, right from the beginning my career. I chose to establish my own jewelry brand and manufacturing company in my native Brazil, together with a talented women Brazilian designer.

We have been successful because we have worked hard, been insistent on high quality and because we understand the people who wear our jewelry. But even then, while I do not have to fight for my place in my own company, I cannot pretend that I do not see what is going on elsewhere in the jewelry and diamond industry.

As I said, we work in a business where the primary end-consumers are women. Does it not make sense that we should have more women in key positions? Would that not make the business stronger?

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WJH Senior Vice President Ali Pastorini (center) making a point during the women’s empowerment session. She is flanked by Judy Meana (left), Vice President of the World Jewelry & Diamond Hub, Panama, and Aylin Gozen of Turkey.

I am proud to say that at the World Jewelry Hub, the story is different. Of the three vice presidents in our senior management team, two of us are women, myself and Judy Meana. We also have a group of talented and competent women on our staff, just as we have talented and competent men.

I was recently with our President, Mahesh Khemlani, at the 2016 World Diamond Congress in Dubai. When I spoke with him after his beautiful speech, and said how proud I am to be his Vice President, he mentioned that he had noticed, as I had, the lack of women at this important events. He had just spoken on the topic of banking, but said that he also should have discussed the need to bring more women into our industry.

Our goal is not to replace men. Indeed, Judy and I hold executive positions in this organization because of one man who has believed in the empowerment of woman from the beginning: Mr Eli Izhakoff, Chairman of the World Jewelry Hub.

We do not ask for special treatment. All we seek is the same opportunities as our male counterparts, without having to prove 20 times over that we are capable of leading. We do not ask to be given a step up or any unfair advantage. We just want a fair chance to help and decide what the best for the market.

When I am saying that we have a group of talented and competent women I am not only talking about World Jewelry Hub staff. The Customs team is led by a woman, Elaine Patino, the Customs Brokerage team is also headed by a woman, Marissa Arauz. We also have a good number of female members, such as Maryline Pataro, who besides running her jewelry brand helps us with business strategy for the bourse. It is through the effort of these incredible women and our incredible men that we are raising the profile of the jewelry and diamond industry here in Latin America.

To change minds and practices we need to work together, and to be assertive in our mission. It is challenging, but we cannot give up. We have to support each other. We have to care about each other. We have to feel proud of each other.

This meeting is only taking place because Judy and I are a united team, and only united teams make things happen.

As I have learned over the past several years, this industry is a wonderful place for women, where it is possible to express both your creative and business instincts. But what we deserve will not be given to us if we don’t claim it for ourselves, and I hope that what we are doing and discussing today will make our jobs easier and more successful.

Thank you for joining us in Panama.