Listen to the Voices of our Industry’s Under-Represented Majority

Ali Pastorini

Having recently returned from Dubai, where it was my privilege to represent the Panama Diamond Exchange (PDE) at the 37th World Diamond Congress, I have had time to reflect on the industry gathering that undoubtedly remains a seminal event in the life our business.

The very fact that, on a regular basis, the leadership of our sector, from all corners of the earth, gathers together to discuss the most pressing topics on our agenda is in itself a remarkable achievement. And there were certainly critical subjects on our schedule, not least the challenges currently being experienced in obtaining bank financing and the demand that our trade becomes more transparent.

But, while the list of speakers was impressive and the quality of the discussion was enlightening, as I looked about the room I could not help feeling that we were missing out on what could have been an even more valuable experience.

As a representative of the world’s youngest diamond bourse, I had looked forward to the dialogue that I would have my colleagues, being able to learn from their experiences and insight. What I experienced in the formal sessions, however, was a great deal of talk, and an inadequate amount of interaction.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen,” Winston Churchill once said. There is an immense amount of wisdom among our collective membership, but to get it full benefit we need to provide all our people the opportunity to say what is on their minds.

As a young woman attending her first-ever World Diamond Congress it sometimes felt that I had gatecrashed the party. Not only was I considerably younger than most of the other delegates, but I was also only of only six women in the room.

Don’t get me wrong. Knowing the WFDB leaders well, I do not for one moment underestimate their knowledge, commitment or integrity, nor do I intend questioning the warmth and respect they have shown me personally. What I am saying is that the attendance at a World Diamond Congress is not necessarily reflective of the social fabric of our industry and society. And if the leadership does not hear all the voices, including those who were hardly represented in Dubai, then they are not getting the full benefit of our wisdom.

There shining examples of inclusiveness within our industry. Our host in Dubai, Mr. Ahmed Bin Sulayem, who also Chairman of the Kimberley Process (KP), is under the age of 40 and holds a senior leadership position. At PDE, both of the vice presidents are women, something of which we are immensely proud. In the year 2016 should there not be a greater younger members and women holding key positions at the diamond exchanges around the world? After all, we collectively represent a majority of all humanity.

I know that are tough questions, but only when we face them head one will we be optimally positioned to face the future.

And even then, I want to emphasize that was a wonderful opportunity to be part of the 37th World Diamond Congress. I love this industry and will do all that I can to encourage the consumer to buy a diamond or other item of jewelry before purchasing a cell phone, a pair of shoes or a handbag. I certainly will work hard with my colleagues to make it possible.

(The author Ali Pastorini, is Senior Vice Presindent of Panama Diamond Exchange and Vice President of World Jewellery Hub)