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This is how the Cartier Women’s Initiative is powering entrepreneurs making an impact

Since its creation in 2006, the initiative has evolved into a comprehensive leadership program that has supported over 300 women impact entrepreneurs globally.

This is how the Cartier Women’s Initiative is powering entrepreneurs making an impact
[Source photo: CartierAwards/X]

Women entrepreneurs are at the forefront as countries worldwide take steps to further economic growth. Over the years, women’s entrepreneurship has been outpacing the workforce, and that growth curve is expected to continue.

Cartier has been a huge supporter of women in business.

Over the last two decades, the Richemont-owned jewelry house has been championing female entrepreneurs whose business ventures positively affect society. 

It does this through a program called the Cartier Women’s Initiative, which awards grant money, networking opportunities, loans, and professional advice to women-owned or female-led businesses in any sector.


Since its creation in 2006, the initiative has evolved into a comprehensive leadership program that has supported over 330 women impact entrepreneurs globally.

“The initiative has evolved a lot. Initially, it was only six regions; now, it’s nine regions, plus two new super meaningful awards. The first one is the Science & Technology Award, which rewards women in tech. The second one is the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Award. What’s interesting about this one is that it’s for both men and women,” says Sophie Doireau, CEO – Middle East, India, Africa and Turkey at Cartier. Tech and DEI are now part of the project. “It has become a real company project with technology and DEI now part of it.”

The nine regional awards include Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, Europe, Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, Anglophone and Lusophone Africa, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), East Asia, South Asia and Central Asia, and Oceania. Two thematic awards are Science & Technology Pioneer Award and the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Award. 

In the early years of the initiative, Cartier Women’s Initiative was an award that recognized a woman’s contribution but didn’t provide additional resources beyond a small grant to five fellows in the first year, adds Wingee Sin, Global Program Director of Cartier Women’s Initiative.

“From 2017 to 2024, it has grown into a more full-blown program that includes an award and a fellowship, where we deliver our human capital support,” Sin says.

“This community is where most of our social capital resides. There is also a vertical around insights, the data, and impact measurement we do around the initiative to help advocate for a more inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem and its positive impact on us all. Over the years, we have also increased our financial support.” 


Thus far, Cartier has awarded over $4 million in prize money, and the initiative has awarded over $9,500,000 in grant funding to support fellows’ businesses. Once they become a fellow, they can apply to the Cartier Women Initiative Loan Fund, which provides low-interest work and capital loans. 

“This is an additional financing opportunity that we provide them,” says Sin.

For women entrepreneurs to get more funding and the existing capital to become more gender-aware, it’s crucial to measure the gender awareness score of the traditional VC portfolio and the investment process, says Sin.

“Women have more and more wealth, and this new form of capital will be invested differently. Tools, information, and education that will empower the next generation of wealth towards the importance of investing and impact will make a big difference.”


Doireau says the aim of the initiative is to stay true to the purpose.

“This program’s objective is to support this woman; it has nothing to do with Cartier’s image. Giving back is the most important thing for us. From our president to the people on-site, it’s genuine,” says Doireau.

It is also about building a long-term relationship with the entrepreneurs and sharing their stories and experiences.

“During the 2020 Expo in Dubai, we created the Women’s Pavilion and invited 50 fellows from previous years. They all came, which shows the impact and importance of this network of women that has continued throughout the years,” says Doireau, who joined Cartier in 2008 in France and moved to the UAE in 2014.

“The more we grow, the more women we have, and the more synergy we create between them,” she adds. 

Further elaborating on the bonding among the women impact entrepreneurs, Sin says, “What unites them is that they are all very passionate about social and environmental change. And then leverage a business to create and solve that challenge.” 

Sin adds that while their circumstances are unique in each geography, industry, or product and service, “women entrepreneurs face similar biases; on top of that, they face an entrepreneurship journey as women.”

“And so, when you combine these, it’s like facing challenges but not feeling alone because, you know, other people are facing those types of challenges… that creates an extraordinary bond.”

Explaining how the program is trying to be impactful after identifying the entrepreneurship journey for women, Sin says, “They are struggling the most with is during the phase of what we call the ‘missing middle,’ a stage of the business where they have proven that they have some product market fit and some traction, but have not raised institutional rounds of funding, and haven’t reached profitability.”

“For this stage of entrepreneurship, women face a challenging time to scale and grow their business. Our program eligibility criteria are designed so that we would find entrepreneurs in this phase of the business,” Sin adds.

Talking about the selection criteria, the two main ones being impact measurement and impact intention and financial sustainability, Sin says, “We’re looking for someone who has built a business model that can solve a social or environmental challenge.”


Women entrepreneurs from the MENA region have also benefited from the initiative, thanks to their remarkable achievements and meaningful solutions to the most pressing global challenges.  

Each year, the brand awards regional winners, and in 2020, Egyptian businesswoman Nadia El Din was named the Women’s Initiative Awards laureate in the MENA region for her motherhood support platform, Rahet Bally.

In 2021, Rana El Sakhawy, founder of MonkiBox, an early learning platform; Manal Hakim, founder of Geek Express, a platform that teaches students STEM skills; and Basima Abdulrahman, founder of Kesk, which offers green building services and products, were on the list of fellows. 

For this year’s edition of the Cartier Women’s Initiative, 27 fellows were selected for the nine regional awards, and six were selected for the two thematic awards to reward entrepreneurs whose businesses fostered opportunities for underrepresented groups. 

These 11 awards recognize and fund talented impact entrepreneurs worldwide who leverage business as a force for good. The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards Ceremony on 22 May in Shenzhen, China, announced each award’s first, second, and third-place awardees.

In the 2024 edition, from the MENA region, Salma Bougarrani from Morocco received the first-place award for Green Watech, a soil-based filter system that treats domestic wastewater in rural communities and reuses it for agricultural irrigation.

“We aim to democratize access to safe sanitation services in rural areas and communities. We developed a low-tech, long-lasting solution to treat wastewater so it can be used in agriculture for food production. It is a long-lasting and affordable solution,” said Bougarrani, a Moroccan entrepreneur and scientist. “The most important thing is to grow in my country first, to have a deep impact.” 

She adds that the wastewater issue is personal to her, as she grew up spending holidays in her father’s village, where wastewater is directly rejected into rivers. “I remember my mom warning me not to drink this water. And I knew then that it was dangerous for my health and the environment.”

Bougarrani adds that winning the Cartier Women’s Initiative is life-changing. “It is one of the few programs that helps you develop and accelerate your business and meet incredible women. It’s like a family now. We have the same challenges, and we are not alone. It’s an incredible network.”

Second place was awarded to Rania Gaafar, founder of ADVA, an Egyptian company that helps self-employed and unbanked people get financing quickly by connecting them to financing institutions offering low-interest rate loans.

Shahira Yahia, founder of Chitosan in Egypt, received the third-place award for her work, which empowers smallholder farmers to participate in the organic market and achieve higher income through new agricultural practices.

All fellows benefit from tailored mentoring and coaching, media visibility, networking opportunities, and education courses from the leading business school INSEAD. 

The first-place awardees take home $100,000 in grant funding, while the second and third-place awardees will receive $60,000 and $30,000, respectively.

Doireau says the number of fellows from the region is growing organically. “There are some countries, especially in Africa and India, where this program is now known and understood and where women see that it can have an impact—a before-and-after program in terms of tools and knowledge, community, and network.”

Women need a network. There’s a link between relationships and opportunities; networking is crucial to building one’s career and business and getting one’s foot in the door.

“We women are very bad at building our network. This is a great opportunity for them to build a network with women facing the same issues. We are still trying to create awareness in the Middle East because there are many women entrepreneurs, and we want to show them that this community could really echo them,” Doireau says. 

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