Recently, I had the distinct pleasure of moderating a panel for Luxury Daily’s full-day conference (held at UBS bank in mid-town Manhattan): Women in Luxury. With more than 100 businesswomen and men speaking about women in cars, watches, finance, it was an incredible day. The panel I was in charge of, naturally, was watches, and more to the point: “Watch Out: Women See New Opportunity in Male-Oriented Business.”
Yes, this centuries-old business has definitely been a male-dominated world — and continues to be so, even though many of us have broken down the proverbial walls and led the way for more women after us. I, for instance, was the first woman watch journalist in the US market — and that was no easy feat. But that is a story for another time. Back to the panel. Speakers included Sarah Zaouk, Director of Marketing and Communications for Baume & Mercier North America, Sharon Buntain, Vice President of Sales for Montblanc North America, Rebecca Fisher, horologist for The RealReal, and Sara Orlando, publisher of WatchTime in America.
Subjects revolved around how women can play a more active role in the watch business, the concept of “double standards” for job promotions, pay and more, and the challenges faced by women in the all-male watch world.
A key topic was what women bring to the job, with one important trait being the ability to multitask, stay aware of time and be empathetic. “Women are typically better multi-taskers, and are better with time management and communications,” said Buntain. “They also tend to excel when it comes to empathy. All beneficial attributes when it comes to executive roles.” Later in the panel, Buntain candidly stated, “Men are judged on their potential, women are judged on their accomplishments.”
For women who have other women on their teams, the issue of how to keep women motivated and empowered them was a subject of importance. It was noted that sometimes women tend to engage in more “cat fighting” than men, and to be a true professional in the watch world, you need to leave that attitude behind and be professional and civil to everyone on the team — like it or not.
“Our team in the office in North America is at 90% female, each specialized in the fields of marketing, sales, operations and customer service. All working for the same goals for the benefit of the brand,” explained Zaouk. “The way I work with my team is to lead by example, coach them, be a mentor to them and provide them the autonomy and empowerment allowing them to learn from their experiences while ensuring that they have the similar opportunities that I had by exposing them and making sure they move forward with their career.”
Naturally, the subject of marketing to women in the watch world also warranted attention, and a great deal of audience participation. Most of the women agreed that men can’t just show pretty watches with flowers and butterflies and think that women will buy them. Women want substance, too, and they like the narrative and life-style experience as well. Additionally, women want functions and complications in their watches, and while more brands are complying, the advertising and marketing has not kept pace.
Another important issue is that women can buy men’s watches and so trying to categorize a watch as a men’s or women’s watch — as in the past — is no longer viable. New methods of marketing to women have to be developed. In all it was a lively topic, and one we will be re-visiting. Stay Tuned.