Talking Point

12 Diverse Days of Christmas #8

Harriet Kelsall- is the Founder and Chair of Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery  

Harriet is one of the most respected bespoke designers and business trailblazers working in the UK jewellery industry today. She is the 2016 HSBC Forward Ladies “Retail Business Woman of the year”, was Everywoman’s “Retail Woman of the Year” in 2011, one of The Institute of Directors magazine’s six “women who have most changed the business world” in 2014 and is a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths and of the City of London.  

She is the Chair of the National Association of Jewellers and a non executive director for both the Responsible Jewellery Council and the British Hallmarking Council. She is a regular keynote speaker on ethics and CSR, advised the government on jewellery skills as part of the Creative and Cultural Skills Academy and speaks nationally and internationally about responsible business.  

Harriet is passionate about helping creative business flourish and her book on the subject called “The Creative’s Guide to Starting a Business: How to turn your talent into a career” has just won at the 2019 Business Book of the Year Awards. 

Harriet and I met around eight years ago, on an IoD training course, and I am delighted we are now friends.

I own two HK bespoke pieces of jewellery  designed by one of her fabulous designers, Laurie and my mother owns one. They really are gorgeous pieces. I am delighted she agreed to write about her own take on diversity.

It’s so important for women across all industries to be fairly represented, not just here but across the world, so that decisions about resources and economic development are shared fairly. 

Here in the UK, and in much of the world, it’s easy for businesses to feel that women taking time off for maternity leave is a big problem for them, but I’ve found the complete opposite.

Maternity cover allows for a fresh injection of energy and ideas into the business before the original post holder comes back from the leave stronger, more efficient and more proactive than ever. We bend over backwards to help these talented women back to work and always think of this leave as an advantage rather than a problem to be overcome. This goes for men taking paternity leave too and we believe that it is the right way to move forward. There is nothing like balancing work and family life to make you ready for anything at the board table and there is no reason that a period of leave should make it harder or slower for women to climb to the top.

In my personal experience, I’ve not seen enough help for female business directors when it comes to maternity leave and feel that this is why many young women are put off from making the first steps to starting a business. If we can support these female founders and have other women see that there is support out there for them, we can have a hand in levelling out the playing field and creating a more diverse, sustainable future in terms of entrepreneurial gender balance. I’d love to see retired directors volunteering to share their time, expertise and contacts with women in the industry who are just starting out.

We need to encourage more female led start-ups and we need to change the narrative on maternity leave. Businesses need to realise that maternity benefits society and that by being supportive, they will find that they have a more empowered female workforce. It also means that boards of the future will have an even bigger, even stronger pool of talent to fish for the most equitable and gender balanced board from.

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