They say that the health of a society can be measured in how it treats its women, but they’re not just talking about spiritual or mental health, but economic health. The data supports this. According to the UN, “Women’s economic empowerment boosts productivity, increases economic diversification and income equality in addition to other positive development outcomes. For example, increasing the female employment rates in OECD countries to match that of Sweden, could boost GDP by over USD six trillion.”
As the most progressive and forward-thinking country in the Middle East, the UAE has centralized women in its rise, empowering them by not restricting access to education, healthcare, jobs, or autonomy. Emirati women in particular have made a global impact in the arenas of government, economics, education, aviation, and other sectors. In fact, the UAE is ranked as a leading country in gender equality in the region, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap report.
So when Vacheron Constantin partnered with Zayed University and exceptional Emirati mentees for its ‘One of Not Many Mentorship Program’, the alignment couldn’t have been more perfect. Vacheron Constantin, with its excellence in patrimony and 265 years of superiority in craftsmanship, technique, and watchmaking prowess, tapped six women who were equally excellent in their respective fields to act as mentors to six seniors at Zayed University. Founder and fashion designer of Mauzan Rafia, Helal Bin Drai; Founder and CEO of Tea Before Noon, Hala Al Gergawi; fashion designer and Founder of Twisted Roots, Latifa Al Gurg; author and artist Alia Al Shamsi; Founder of Salama’s Restaurant, Salama Al Shamsi; and Jewelry Designer and Founder of her eponymous brand Noora Shawqi; are the inspiring, pioneering women that made this mentorship program a reality.
Although the recipients have yet to be announced, six women are about to have their lives changed. As the committee makes it decision as to which graduating seniors will be partnered with one of the above mentors, Savoir Flair spoke to Brand Director of Vacheron Constantin in the Middle East, Alexander Schmiedt, and Hala Al Gergawi about how this thrilling program came into existence.
Alexander Schmiedt - Brand Director of Vacheron Constantin in the Middle East
What are you looking for when making the selection of the young students for this initiative, and how did you decide to pair them with their mentors?
This is an exceptional mentorship program for exceptional students. We wanted to select six female students from Zayed University and provide them with an opportunity to discover, learn, and grow in their desired future career paths. To help achieve this, we reviewed applications and conducted interviews to choose students whose personality and aspirations matched with the personality and profile of the mentor.
What will be the journey of the mentee? What kind of plans do the mentors have in store for them? What happens once the initiative is over?
The mentorship program will aim to give the six senior students a unique experience outside the walls of a classroom through first-hand observations, explorations, and experimentations, an experience that they might not have been able to receive before this initiative.
To further support the same six students, Vacheron Constantin will offer them an internship opportunity at the end of the ‘One of Not Many Mentorship Program’. This should help kick-start their career in the luxury industry, grow their professional networks, and encourage them to consider this industry as a career option.
In what ways does this powerful initiative capture the heritage and spirit of the Vacheron Constantin Maison?
We are proud that for over 265 years, Vacheron Constantin has not only been dedicated to transmitting its know-how and craftsmanship, but also spreading creativity to all those involved with the Maison. Excellence and expertise are incredibly important to us and this will continue for all of our years, and will become an even stronger and more evident part of our values.
This directly ties back to what we do in our day-to-day activities, and now seen in the ‘One of Not Many Mentorship Program’, giving the opportunity to young Emirati women to be mentored by successful and inspiring women in the UAE.
Philosophical thinker Charles Fourier argues that women’s position in society could be used as a measure of the development of society as a whole. As more women are empowered, society becomes empowered in direct correlation. Is this something that Vacheron Constantin believes in?
Yes, absolutely, this quote connects with us, and in fact transmits the direct message that women make society strong, inspiring, and empowered for all to be involved in.
The watch industry as a whole has placed renewed focus on women’s watches, particularly in the past year. What is the reason for this?
One thing that Vacheron Constantin has never done is follow trends; we launched this collection because we genuinely believe it is the right moment for Vacheron Constantin. From the early days of our watchmaking, women have always played an extremely important role at our Maison; this can be seen from our female timepieces which date back to our earliest development and creation of timepieces pieces in Geneva. Our First Lady wrist watches in 1890 were designed 40 years earlier than men’s wrist watches, which shows our heritage and dedication to women in the earliest of our days.
Hala Al Gergawi - Founder of Tea Before Noon
What does leadership mean to you?
To me, leadership is building a team with mutual trust and leading it with authenticity.
At what stage did you become involved in the “One of Not Many” initiative with Vacheron Constantin?
As Founder and CEO of Tea Before Noon, I have partnered with Vacheron Constantin to facilitate its ‘One of Not Many Mentorship Program’. We have worked very closely on every single detail around the program’s offering, branding, and mentor profiling.
My passion for what we do at Tea Before Noon, at Zayed University, and in my community made me want to give more to the program.
Being a proud alumnus of Zayed University myself, it is an honor for me to come on board not only as a partner but also as a mentor to share my accumulated experience throughout my career journey and to contribute in shaping the younger generation’s career goals and vision.
What are you hoping your mentee takes away from their experience with having you as a mentor? What wisdom do you hope to impart?
I have worked in the corporate world for more than a decade, which led me to become the Editor-in-Chief of Zahrat Al Khaleej until 2018. However, I have always worked with an entrepreneurial mindset with a clear mission in empowering my community and local talents. In 2018, I established Tea Before Noon with the same mission at its core. I am very excited to transfer my experience to my mentee through the ‘One of Not Many Mentorship Program’, to give her direction in shaping her goal, through building a career and a life she doesn’t need a vacation from.
It’s been three years since you launched Tea Before Noon, and you’ve seen tremendous success with your business. What are some of the proudest moments you’ve had along the way?
Today! The feedback I am receiving continuously from my community and network, since the day of the launch of the ‘One of Not Many Mentorship Program’ is overwhelming. It makes me proud of what we have achieved. I am very passionate in fulfilling our mission in every initiative we do at TBN, through unique collaborations we are establishing with amazing partners such as Vacheron Constantin and Zayed University. At TBN, we bridge Emirati talents with international brands and maintain a dialogue between creative industries through such initiatives driven by same cultural values.