Faltering global economies, political upheaval and violence seem to be the main headlines these days. Difficult times make life even more challenging for vulnerable populations, especially, in much of the world, women. According to UN Women, “women bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty… because of the systematic discrimination they face in education, health care, employment and control of assets… According to some estimates, women represent 70 percent of the world’s poor.”
Avon, with its mission to be THE company for women, has been driving the empowerment of women for 126 years. In my nearly three years with Avon, I have seen how, from the first “Avon Lady,” Mrs. P.F.E. Albee in the U.S., to more than 6 million independent Avon Sales Representatives in more than 100 countries today, our direct selling business drives the economic empowerment and well being of women.
But does it really work? Does the Avon opportunity really make a difference? Well, yes.
Earlier this summer, results were published of the three-year research study led by Professor Linda Scott and Dr. Catherine Dolan of the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. The study focused on South African women working as independent Avon Sales Representatives in the company’s direct selling business, Avon Justine. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in the UK, the study, called Avon in Africa: Reducing Poverty Through Global Exchange, had clear findings: Avon is making it possible for South African women to escape the cycle of poverty.
It is important to note this study was neither commissioned nor funded by Avon. Here are some of its highlights:
- Three quarters of the Avon Sales Representatives reported they had achieved financial autonomy through Avon.
- The income earned by the Sales Representatives working for 16 months or more covered household expenditures for food and non-alcoholic beverages, clothing, shoes and healthcare.
- The Sales Representatives ranked in the top half of black females in their community for income and were on par with black men.
Just as meaningful, 90% of the Sales Representatives said they had learned skills from Avon that could be transferred to other opportunities as well. These included not only business skills, but increased confidence (reported by 86%), social skills, and the respect of family members and the community. These achievements were attributed in part to the supportive, women-friendly Avon network and the training, support and recognition system in place to drive, inspire and reward achievement.
In the press release on the research, the concluding assessment by co-researcher Dr. Catherine Dolan is especially resonant. “In the past, many have viewed the global marketplace as hostile to women’s interests, but the example of Avon in South Africa shows this need not be the case.”
On any given day, Avon extends $1 billion in credit to Sales Representatives to drive their Avon business. These Sales Representatives come from all walks of life and from every demographic of society — from corporate executives to first-time entrepreneurs. Avon knows, whatever her background, a woman simply needs the tools and opportunity to succeed.