Editorial When Women Speak
International Women’s Day 2021 takes place amid a groundswell of women’s voices in the watch world
I tend to be one of those people who don’t celebrate stuff. Why do we choose one day per year to focus on something that should be important every day? It just gives us an excuse to de-prioritise important things 364 days out of 365. Like people who go all out on Valentine’s Day with chocolates and flowers and then neglect their partners the rest of the time. Or the people who only go to church on Christmas Day. You won’t be surprised to hear I’m not big on birthdays either, much to the chagrin of my friends and family. Today, however, I may be forced to admit that having dedicated days of awareness and celebration is important. Because it’s International Women’s Day. And I’ve come to realise (sad face emoji) that the most efficient way to make people shun the issue of women’s rights is to talk about it every day.
Switzerland was one of the first countries to celebrate International Women’s Day, actually, along with Austria, Denmark and Germany. This was back in 1911, one year after the International Socialist Woman’s Conference in Copenhagen, where 100 women from 17 countries voted unanimously to designate March 8 a day to celebrate women’s socio-politico-economic progress and to raise awareness of continued inequality.
Last week, our own Roberta Naas, the grande dame of horological journalism who was virtually the only female watch writer around when she started, penned a breakdown of feminine watches that are as mechanically powerful as they are decorative. Beauty and brains in the same package, was the central theme of the article, which also included an analysis of why our industry as a whole has not succeeded in engaging fully with the female buyer.
Another industry veteran who just joined our ranks, the always-perspicacious Sophie Furley, observed that women often buy watches that are designed for men, because in general brands just don’t put as much effort or innovation into the watches that they create for people with two X chromosomes.
This turns into a vicious circle of sorts — women buy men’s watches because the selection of women’s watches isn’t interesting for them. Brands see that their men’s collections vastly outperform their women’s collections and so they invest fewer resources into female-targeted timepieces. It’s a never-ending and self-perpetuating cycle, and I’m not sure why brands aren’t bored of it yet, because I am, and I’ve only been in this industry for 10 years.
A few weeks ago, a friend and I started an online discussion group for women in the watch world, called Watch Femme. It’s an open and inclusive group that embraces all subjects that affect women in this industry, whether it’s hiring inclusivity at companies, female leadership in watchmaking, or how gender-targeted advertising affects market perception and purchasing. Since then, our little discussion group has grown to include participants from every continent and every industry sector: brands, institutions, start-ups, agencies, media, not to mention consumers and enthusiasts. We started our discussions in English, we recently had our first French-speaking session, and have received requests and volunteers to host German-speaking sessions. This all happened within a month. That is how much women care about engaging with the watch world.
International Women’s Day is one of the official observances listed on the United Nations website, and their focus for 2021 is on women in leadership, highlighting how women (particularly healthcare workers and national leaders) have exemplified positive action in a world gripped by a health crisis. Two years ago, at Watches & Wonders Miami, I helped to coordinate and plan a series of discussion panels that centred on the role played by women in watchmaking. One of the panels was entitled “Can Women Save The Watch World?” (spoiler alert: the answer was “Yes”). We’ll be coming back to you with more articles this month about how essential women are in every aspect of the watch industry. Stay tuned.
Before I go, let me tell you a secret — you know who gets really tired of talking about women’s rights every day? Women. Women are tired of having this conversation; but we are happy to keep talking about it until things change significantly and permanently. We make up half the world’s population, you know. We’ll get it done.