The room is a glowing red and the evening is warm–not only because of the perpetually sunny state of Singapore, but also because of the smiles beaming across the ballroom at the Capella Singapore. The source of all this warmth and camaraderie is Cartier and its empowering Women’s Initiative Awards. In its 13th year of joining forces with McKinsey & Company and INSEAD Business School, it is as powerful an event as ever, one where hopeful finalists from all over the globe vie to be conferred as laureates for the event recognising the feasibility and social impact of their altruistic start-ups.
In this scarlet tinted ballroom, female entrepreneurs brimming with the brightest world-changing ideas have gathered to share and present their experiences as strong leaders of their start-ups. One entrepreneur has created tactile tablets for the blind and visually impaired, another has engineered a device that can detect oncoming epileptic fits 25 minutes in advance, while another driven businesswoman has set up an online blood bank that collects and dispatches blood donations to hospitals. These are all laudable socially driven enterprises that will, and already have, made significant improvements to human lives, but with one great vantage that sets them apart from other philanthropic endeavours; they’re all for-profit.
With this many magnanimous individuals in one place, the aura of goodwill in the room is palpable. “Wow,” exclaims Cyrille Vigneron, CEO of Cartier. Looking out to at the smiling faces from the stage, he shares, “People often ask me, ‘why did Cartier start the Women’s Initiative Awards?’ and feeling the energy in this room, it’s not ‘why’ but ‘wow’.” A sigh of admiration escapes his lips, “This is probably the most powerful community I’ve ever seen.” The sea of faces below beam as many turned to each other exchanging knowing looks, for among them sit laureates of the the past awards as well as the 18 finalists of the current year who journeyed together in the Awards Week program. Through business workshops, coaching sessions and jury evaluations, they’ve since formed a bond of sisterhood.
“Even though we’re from different parts of the world and in various industries, we all have so much in common,” Kristina Tsvetanova, one of the winning laureates from this year’s Awards, confides in me after I congratulate her. “It was a real learning opportunity for me and so inspiring to hear how these phenomenal ladies have overcome so much to get here.”
The “here” that Tsvetanova speaks of is this night at the Capella Singapore where Cartier has chosen to mark the remarkable milestones these women have chalked with a profound event, partnering with TED, the non-profit organisation dedicated to ideas worth spreading. Tonight, the room laughs, sheds a tear and is inspired by the empowering words of some truly exceptional ladies including the likes of past Icelandic presidential candidate Halla Tómasdóttir, Emirati politician HE Sheikha Lubna Khalid Al Qasimi and Gingger Shankar,the multi-talented musician and daughter of iconic sitarist Ravi Shankar.
Then, the moment of truth as the six laureates for the 2018 edition of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards are announced. Representing leadership, resourcefulness and creativity, the female entrepreneurs from Europe, Asia Pacific, North America, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Middle East & North Africa stand side by side on the stage as the room erupts in thunderous applause. Emotions run high as the winners embrace each other and tears stream down their faces. It is the perfect end to an event where every moment is of sharing and support.
“I wasn’t crying because I won,” Tsvetanova tells me, “I cried because I wanted these ladies to win.” It is that depth of emotional connection is what makes the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards a truly powerful movement.
The 2019 edition of Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards is currently accepting applications until the 31st of August 2018.