International Women’s Day in-conversation: Running a female-founded business in a male-dominated industry

08 Mar 2021 · 5:00PM - 6:00PM
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To mark International Women’s Day 2021 the Goldsmiths’ Centre has invited leading business women Zhanna Beissekova of IGR London (International Gemological Reports), Harriet Kelsall of Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery, and author and journalist Maya Kay, to join editor and trend-forecaster Kathryn Bishop in-conversation, to discuss their experiences of running a female-founded business in a male-dominated industry.

Who are the speakers?

Zhanna Beissekova is IGR London’s (International Gemological Reports) Head Gemmologist. The IGR London diamond and gemstone laboratory came about from a desire to provide clients with an alternative to the large, faceless, traditional precious stone laboratories. It is a boutique female-run laboratory, with 20-years’ experience. Zhanna was born in Kazakhstan – a country rich in natural resources from oil to gemstones – her grandparents were heavily involved in the mining of coal and gas. Many stories from mining cities recited by her grandfather helped to inspire an interest in geology which stayed with her all throughout her school years, and culminated in a certification from Gem-A. Zhanna has a heartfelt affection for the study of gemstones. She explains, “It is a beautiful combination of artistic beauty and science both of which I am passionate about”.

Kathryn Bishop is a London-based editor and trend forecaster, and vice-chair of the Goldsmiths' Craft & Design Council. She began her writing career in 2008 with a blog focused on jewellery design, growing her knowledge and industry reach to become editor of B2B title Professional Jeweller in 2013. In 2016 she was selected for Retail Jeweller’s 30 Under 30, praised for her "unrivalled knowledge of the jewellery industry". Kathryn has since written for and consulted for organisations including IJL, Baselworld, Retail Jeweller, Adorn Insight and WGSN. Today, she is Foresight Editor at globally-renowned trends consultancy The Future Laboratory, focusing on the luxury and retail sectors.

Harriet Kelsall is one of the most respected bespoke designers and business trailblazers working in the UK jewellery industry today. She was 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 started her multiple award winning business from her kitchen table in 1998 and now employs 40 across 3 design studios and the company work extensively both nationally and internationally via online consultations. Most recently they won the 2020 Bespoke Jeweller of the Year award at the National Retail Jeweller Awards. She was the Chair of the National Association of Jewellers (now deputy chair) and is a non-executive director for the British Hallmarking Council. She has also been a non-executive director for the Responsible Jewellery Council and 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” which won at the 2019 Business Book of the Year Awards.

Maya Kay is an author. Her writing includes essays, poetry, and short fiction. She also wrote and hosted her own radio show, 'Hidden Gems with Maya' on Women's Radio Station from their studio in London. Maya writes for print, social and digital media. Since 2009, Kay has also led initiatives to elevate women in her industry. In 2015, she launched The Carat Soup, which catapulted her career. It is a website about gemstones, jewels and the arts. Where she interviews various individuals, ranging from the mines in rural Southern Africa, to industry leaders in London, Geneva and Monaco. Connect with Maya via Instagram @TheCaratSoup.