Sabina Belli has a lot to shoulder. Not only is the luxury industry veteran the CEO of Pomellato Group, which comprises jewellery maison Pomellato and its sister brand DoDo, she is among a small number of women CEOs in the world. But Belli feels the responsibility to spread a message that can empower other women, by encouraging and supporting them, which is partly why she spearheaded the Pomellato For Women campaign in 2017.
“I am a great believer in the concept of genuineness—this value comes to our aid in terms of relationships and in addressing and dealing with big issues such as gender equality, diversity, sustainability,” Belli tells GRAZIA Singapore exclusively. “With genuineness comes the art of listening and acting with integrity. There is power in that.”
We speak to Pomellato’s CEO Sabina Belli on where gender equality in leadership stands and what’s needed to level the playing field.
Why is it that women CEOs are not yet a common sight, and what’s needed in companies and society to reach parity and equality in leadership teams?
SB: We cannot wait 100 years or more to close the global gender gap, as forecasted by the World Economic Forum. We have to teach girls that they can do great things. That message must be worked into the social conversation and in politics, because if they have that vision of themselves, they will be able to reach what they want. Of course, it is complicated, because when girls become women, they have obligations, children, family, work and other responsibilities, and often they suffer great social pressure that can make them feel guilty. The system does not help, and it is difficult to organise to take care of the children, for example.
But the saddest thing is that women tend to think that if they don’t sacrifice themselves, they are not good mothers. They feel guilty if they are not at home when their children return from school. Why are women more likely to feel that, and not men? Why do men have less of a guilt complex? For example, there are women who say they have to quit their jobs because they have analysed the figures with their husbands and concluded that their salary should cover the cost of the babysitter. Instead, her salary should be added to his and both partners should contribute to paying for the caretaker. And who knows, perhaps in three years she will earn more than he does, so why should she sacrifice herself in the name of financial prudence? There are still a lot of stereotypes when it comes to gender; in companies and societies, we need to fight these stereotypes, and pursue a mindset change.
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How do you feel the conversation about women in leadership has evolved over time?
SB: It is moving along, although there’s still a lot to do! What is important is that women have broken the silence and are speaking up to promote change, together. Women’s skills are different, and women also create synergies in terms of collective intelligence.
I see a growth in active participation of women in speaking platforms discussing the gender gap that exists in the professional world and in the top positions of business, large institutions and politics. They also discuss the phenomenon of “giving up” on career and ambition, a trend that is still statistically observed in girls at different stages of their personal and professional development. Awareness brings about change, and mentorship projects are helpful tools to support the empowerment of young women to encourage their ambition and leadership, and support them in the enhancement of their inclinations and aptitudes. I just joined one of these project in Milan organised by the public administration—an impressive effort and a forward-thinking initiative!
What are Pomellato’s goals this year for the Pomellato for Women initiative?
SB: Freedom! Pomellato is proud to unveil its new awareness campaign advocating for freedom with its sixth annual video in occasion of International Women’s Day. Comprising an impressive cast of glass-ceiling breakers, from Pomellato for Women Ambassador Jane Fonda to American actress Joey King, Italian volleyball champion and LGBTQ+ activist Paola Egonu, and Iranian rock climber and women’s right activist Nasim Eshqi, we chose to discuss about how freedom is under threat in today’s world, how women are disproportionally implicated in the fight for freedoms, and how, together, we need to speak up, rise up, and act now.
Unfortunately, our freedoms as women and people continue to come under threat across the world. This year it has become especially evident. We are being suppressed, challenged, reduced, silenced and even killed. Everyone is responsible to rise up and speak out against our loss of freedoms. I am proud to present the Pomellato for Women video alongside some of our most inspirational and powerful sisters, to speak our truth and to raise our voices to protect freedom. With campaign this year we are supporting FreeFrom, partner of the Kering Foundation.
In what other ways have you been working to support women? What are some of the highlights and challenges of those experiences?
SB: Our Pomellato For Women platform unites a community of like-minded women from different walks of life, meant to both inspire others and highlight the importance of female leadership. It is about opening a channel of awareness to talk about women’s issues through women’s voices so that we can ignite change. It is important that we leverage the power of a luxury brand’s visibility to raise consciousness and promote the change we want for the world for a better and more inclusive future for everyone.
Furthermore, for the past 10 years, Pomellato has been supporting CADMI, a women’s shelter based in Milan, part of the D.i.RE network of anti-violence centres. Pomellato will always act decisively to support womenkind, and we want women victims of domestic abuse to know they are not alone.
In addition to this long-term project, I wrote a book called D Come Donna, C Come CEO (in English, W as Woman, C as CEO) to reach women in a different way, by sharing my experiences throughout my professional career. All proceeds from book royalties are donated to CADMI.