Cartier Women’s Initiative
The Cartier Women's Initiative is an annual contest of business projects established in 2006 by the Cartier company in collaboration with INSEAD Business School. The initiative is aimed at supporting women entrepreneurs and promoting their projects worldwide. This year, special efforts were made to popularise the project in Russia.
CEO of Cartier Russia
CEO of Skolkovo Forum
This year, the Russian representative returned to the jury of the Cartier Women’s Initiative. Yekaterina Inozemtseva, CEO of Skolkovo Forum, took up that position. Together with Yanina Novitskaya, CEO of Cartier Russia, she did a great job to promote the contest in Russia and attract Russian women entrepreneurs to participating in it.
Within this interview, we talked with experts about support measures provided by the Cartier Women’s Initiative programme, the most impressive projects for the jury, and the strengths of women’s entrepreneurship in Russia.
– Please, tell us about the Cartier Women’s Initiative. Why are such projects especially important today?
Yanina Novitskaya: I believe that women’s agenda is very important for the modern world. Cartier has been actively involved in this field for 15 years. From the very beginning, we have been looking at the role of women in the world from a progressive perspective highlighting the opportunities that women, as chiefs and leaders, can give to humanity.
Thus, we launched a major project, the Cartier Women's Initiative award, 15 years ago. Its main goal was to provide talented women entrepreneurs seeking to change the lives of people around them for the better with comprehensive support. It was also designed to contribute to a better future for younger generations. These are not just beautiful words. The projects presented as part of the initiative make it possible to develop different spheres of social life. They are aimed at addressing relevant social problems.
All these projects are related to medicine, education, ecology, new technologies, improvement of living conditions, and other fields. These are very different businesses. However, a deep philosophy and the goal to bring concrete benefits to society unite them.
Women’s entrepreneurship, as a rule, has a clearly seen social orientation. We want to help such projects develop and increase their scale. They are necessary for all humanity today.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative is not just a competition. It is a platform making it possible to bring together strong, energetic, and talented women entrepreneurs from around the world. Thanks to creating such a professional environment, many of the contestants discover themselves anew, overcome the ‘glass ceilings’ in their minds, and become more confident.
Thus, a powerful community is formed where women entrepreneurs share their experience and ideas, where they inspire and support one another. This is probably even more valuable for them than the main award, the monetary prize.
We are convinced that the Cartier Women’s Initiative does not need a special presentation. The benefits of the project are absolutely obvious. The grateful feedback from hundreds of contestants proves that. However, few people have heard about the initiative by now. We are dedicated to changing that for the better by expanding our collaboration. Yekaterina Inozemtseva, CEO of Skolkovo Forum, is a vivid example of how a person can contribute to the development of a useful global initiative by investing not money but experience, information, and communication support. We are glad that we have such friends. This shows that our agenda really brings together caring people who believe in the power of women’s entrepreneurship.
Yekaterina Inozemtseva: I was happy to join the Cartier Women's Initiative project. Probably, that’s because I myself have been developing the women’s agenda in Russia for a long time. However, due to the specifics of my work at Skolkovo, I focused on creating the most comfortable conditions for women and girls to adapt to the digital economy. We held many forums and tours and created special educational programmes and courses for children and adults.
Learning about Cartier and its competition was a real discovery for me! It is an amazing opportunity to discover unique networking, establish new international contacts, and receive business education and financial support. I felt sorry that thousands of talented Russian entrepreneurs did not even know about that contest. That is why we began to popularise this initiative in Russia. That’s how our collaboration with Cartier began and grew into a warm friendship.
Women’s entrepreneurship is a driver of sustainable development. However, it is very important that women's projects have as many opportunities for development as possible. Women entrepreneurs should know about their opportunity to receive support from different institutions.
– This year, you worked actively on promoting the contest among Russian women entrepreneurs. Did it somehow affect the contest atmosphere?
Yanina Novitskaya: Russia has many successful women in all spheres of society including entrepreneurship. It was surprising that there were almost no Russian women among the Cartier contestants. During all that time, only one laureate from Russia named Marina Ross was nominated. We understood that very few people in Russia know about the contest. We had no global strategy to promote the project at that time.
To fix the situation, we started publishing information in the media. Editors-in-Chief of many publications were happy to respond to our requests to publish those articles. This once again proved that people are really interested in our initiative and it is useful for them.
Then, we met and communicated more with Russian businesswomen at various forums. The more we plunged into the topic, the clearer we saw how many talented projects we had. Women in Russia are often ashamed to talk about their uniqueness. They don’t feel confident in their own strength. That’s why we decided to not only inform women entrepreneurs about the contest and existing opportunities but also support them at the application stage. We decided to tell them how to present their projects properly.
During this and the previous year, we had a lot of publications and interviews in Russia. We have expanded the scope of our useful contacts and support from reputable personalities. This helped us promote Russia’s representation in the contest to a new level.
One of the important achievements was that Yekaterina Inozemtseva, a Russian expert, returned to the jury of the Cartier Women’s Initiative.
– So the main difficulty is that Russian women entrepreneurs are still shy about making themselves known?
Yanina Novitskaya: They tend to humbly downplay their merits and success. In May, together with Yekaterina Inozemtseva, I hosted a large eight-hour online conference that was attended by a large number of women entrepreneurs. During breaks between sessions, they had the opportunity to talk to the speakers in person.
A young woman who organised the production of jam in a small village communicated with me. She asked whether she could apply for participation in the contest. She thought her project was modest and not that important socially. However, from my point of view, her business was of great benefit to society. In fact, the young woman saved the village from unemployment and provided jobs for elderly people. She contributed to the popularisation of manual labour and the preservation of identity. In addition, it turned out that her package design was chosen the best in one of the major international competitions. Can we consider such a business successful and worthy of being awarded? Yes, certainly!
Yekaterina Inozemtseva: Throughout the contest stages, we can clearly see the difference in how contestants from different countries perceive their own achievements and merits. They present their projects in absolutely different ways. Participation in international contests often helps them acquire confidence.
The most important point is that the participants not only get experience and energy during the contest but also share it with other entrepreneurs when returning to their countries.
For example, Marina Ross, a laureate from Russia, presented a report at one of the major events in Skolkovo. She told not only about her experience in the contest but also about the lessons she had learned during the programme. We believe that such knowledge should be multiplied. It inspires, motivates, and helps entrepreneurs reach a new level.
– What exact support do contestants receive?
Yanina Novitskaya: The first and the most obvious thing is financial support: monetary prize that laureates and winners of the contest receive.
The second support measure is a compulsory educational programme by INSEAD team for all project participants. Supervised by authoritative businesspersons and professors, contestants can review their strategies and development plans. They receive unique skills and knowledge.
The contestants develop hard skills, soft skills, and work on overcoming their inner barriers.
In addition, every participant becomes the part of a big community and joins its networking. She can find like-minders from different countries and expand their business contacts and communication prospects.
PR support for finalists of the contest is another pleasant bonus. The media write articles about them worldwide.
– What contest projects were the most impressive ones for you?
Yanina Novitskaya: There are a lot of them but there were two favorites for me. One entrepreneur created accessories of old fire hoses, a completely unusual material for this field of activity. That demonstrates the creative potential of women’s thinking. The second young woman created underwear for women who survived cancer and breast removal.
Communication with such amazing entrepreneurs charges you with incredible inspiration. You have the desire to be useful to society here and now. Social projecting is a real source of power and energy.
We are happy to help people who change the world through their activities. Cartier is a strong corporate platform. We feel responsible before society.
I would like to emphasize that we are not only engaged in women’s entrepreneurship. We have many other projects. For example, we support young artists.
Yekaterina Inozemtseva: Answering the question, I would like to emphasize the international aspect of such contests. It is very important that people from different countries exchange experiences and ideas constantly.
When a person is isolated from the world, he or she starts to think too narrowly. Participation in international projects, on the contrary, enriches people by expanding their understanding of what things are socially important on a global scale.
I remembered a project that was presented not at the Cartier contest, but at the INSEAD Business School contest. African entrepreneurs created small reading lights with solar-powered light bulbs. The cost of such things was minimal but their value for the people of African villages was enormous.
– What impression do Russian women entrepreneurs have on you? What are their strengths? What can women entrepreneurs from other countries learn from them?
Yekaterina Inozemtseva: One of our main advantages is primary education. In Russia, school and university are common steps to professional activity for most people. Almost everybody here gets higher or secondary specialized education. This creates an excellent scientific and technological basis for business.
I communicate a lot with technological entrepreneurs and I often see women who are successfully engaged in production of innovative building materials or even in creation of space stations. Their businesses are based on engineering education. At the same time, women often do not regard their speciality as an advantage. Some of them entered the profession ‘accidentally’ because they chose the nearest university or followed the advice of their parents.
Meanwhile, such education is a great advantage in building a business in the international arena.
I believe that higher education in any field is an excellent basis for using a wide range of scientific knowledge to start and develop a project.
Yanina Novitskaya: Russian women have a very kind heart and a developed worldview. They always look at things from different perspectives. They always have a lot of ideas and are happy to take an active part in any brainstorming session or discussion.
Yes, women in Russia are very modest and often shy. They are uncomfortable to declare themselves and share their success. However, it is very simple to ‘activate’ this skill. All you need to do is to get a certain impulse to join the right flow. We know how to get involved in a situation and react quickly to it, which is especially valuable.
– What would you like to wish women around the world?
Yekaterina Inozemtseva: Love in the broadest sense of the word.
Yanina Novitskaya: First of all, love for themselves. Women by nature tend to give a lot, to live for the sake of their loved ones and other people around them. However, it is none the less important to remember about themselves, to take care of their own inner balance and harmony. Only after that they will manage to give even more love to the world.
Yekaterina Inozemtseva: Of course, it is very important to love your field of activity. I wish all women in the world to learn to listen to their own desires. After all, only when our work brings us pleasure, we are able to change the space around us for the better.
Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov