Mary Kay Inc., an ardent advocate of women’s economic empowerment and gender equality, marks Women’s Entrepreneurship Day today by reaffirming its global commitment to women entrepreneurs through external efforts and partnerships focused on elevating and advancing women entrepreneurship.
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Deborah Gibbins, Mary Kay’s Chief Operating Officer (Photo courtesy: Mary Kay Inc.)
An entrepreneurship development company operating in nearly 35 countries, Mary Kay has empowered women and supported their entrepreneurial aspirations for almost 60 years. The company has collaborated with change makers through impact-focused partnerships around the world to help dismantle barriers to women’s economic empowerment and accelerate women’s inclusion in the entrepreneurship eco-system.
VALUE POTENTIAL AND CHALLENGES TO WOMEN ENTREPRENEURSHIP:
Expanding women’s economic inclusion lifts families up, strengthens communities, and makes societies more resilient. Data shows that women tend to reinvest up to 90% of their earnings in their families and local communities.1 Research also shows that women-owned businesses, while disproportionately impacted by economic downturns are resilient, agile, and sustainable.2 Women-owned businesses often respond to crises through innovation tackling the most urgent global challenges including climate change and biodiversity loss.
Despite the evidence of the multiplier effect of women’s entrepreneurship, women in business continue to face obstacles worldwide resulting from unequal access to capital, professional education, inclusion in the global value chain, and access to markets for their products and services. Compounding these barriers are unequal laws. The 2022 Women, Business and the Law Report found that nearly 2.4 billion women of working age still do not enjoy the same economic rights as men.3
The challenges are so great that the 2022 Global Gender Gap Report indicated that it will take a staggering 151 years to close the economic participation and opportunity gender gap.4
When women are excluded from the entrepreneurship eco-system, it means companies and investors are missing out on a huge investment opportunity. In Europe, for example, studies show that even though women get half the investment capital compared to men, their companies deliver twice as much revenue for each dollar invested.5
Aligned with its mission to enrich women’s lives, Mary Kay and its partners are focused on advancing women entrepreneurship and supporting established or aspiring women entrepreneurs wherever they live.
Recognizing that women’s empowerment and gender equality are critical enablers and accelerators in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Mary Kay’s 10-year sustainability strategy, launched in 2021 – Enriching Lives Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow – is underpinned by a strong gender equality lens and a key commitment to empower 5 million women worldwide by 2030 through key initiatives and partnerships.Advancing women’s economic participation is not only good for sustainable growth but also ensures that no-one is left behind – a key principle of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Inspired by our mission as an entrepreneurship development company founded by a woman for women, we believe we must invest in and empower women to realize the full benefits of their economic participation not only on the economy but on society at large. We are transforming the landscape for women entrepreneurs by addressing the barriers they face through key partnerships aimed at disrupting the status quo,” said Deborah Gibbins, Chief Operating Officer at Mary Kay Inc.
NOTABLE ONGOING PARTNERSHIPS TO ADVANCE WOMEN ENTREPRENEURSHIP AROUND THE WORLD INCLUDE:
- The SDG Pilot Village Project in China – A Women-focused Poverty Reduction Development Project
- Recognizing that improving the lives of rural women is key to fighting poverty and achieving sustainable development, UNDP China and Mary Kay, in collaboration with the Chinese government, the public sector and NGO partners, launched the SDG Pilot Village Project in Waipula, Yunnan Province, China in 2017.6 The joint project dismantled the barriers to women’s entrepreneurship through the provision of social protection and the creation of green entrepreneurial opportunities supported by efforts to enhance women’s leadership in community decision-making fora.
- As a result of this gender focused project (Phase I: 2017-2021):
- The local poverty rate in the village fell from 28% in 2017 to 0% in 2020.
- Through training and capacity-building, 60 households and 193 individuals living under the poverty line were lifted out of poverty by 2020.
- 210 seasonal migrant workers and 120 long-term migrant workers, the majority of which comprised women, were able to return home to a job or start their own business and be reunited with their children and families.
- 607 local women found employment and raised their income with some emerging as community leaders, taking up roles as members of the village committee and managers in local hospitality and the arts.
- People’s per capita income grew to be RMB 14,128/$2,107 in 2021.
- The project advanced 12 of the 17 SDGs.
- The WE Empower UN SDG Challenge – Supporting Women Social Entrepreneurs
- Since 2019, Mary Kay has been a core partner of The WE Empower UN SDG Challenge. An initiative co-led by Vital Voices and the Global Futures Laboratory at Arizona State University, the annual competition recognizes 5 women entrepreneurs advancing the SDGs in their communities and provides awardees with capacity-building training sessions and connections with business experts from around the world.
- The Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator
- In 2019, together with 6 UN agencies, Mary Kay incepted the Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator (WEA) with a mission to create an enabling eco-system that works for women entrepreneurs.
- The 6 UN Agencies comprising WEA are: International Labour Organization (ILO), International Trade Centre (ITC), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), UN Global Compact (UNGC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women.
KEY ACHIEVEMENTS THROUGH THE WOMEN’S ENTREPRENEURSHIP ACCELERATOR INCLUDE:
- Entrepreneurship Policy Development in Mexico and Brazil
- Over the course of 2020 and 2021, ILO conducted and released a Women’s Entrepreneurship Development (WED) assessment of policy conditions that impact women’s entrepreneurship focused on the commerce and industry sectors in Mexico City in support of WEA. The assessment included a series of 19 actionable recommendations to address the institutional gaps that exist for women entrepreneurs. In Brazil, ILO worked with Serviçio Nacional de Aprendizagem Industrial (SENAI) to advocate for women’s entrepreneurship development through a package of communication and awareness-raising campaigns, capacity-building workshops and events.
- Launch of the Women’s Entrepreneurship EXPO
- In 2021, the first Women’s Entrepreneurship EXPO led by UN Women with the support of Mary Kay organized a bootcamp across the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region to increase the capacities of women entrepreneurs to attract investment. This culminated in an Investors Pitch Finale in April 2022 where 25 women entrepreneurs from 9 countries (Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, North Macedonia, Moldova, and Serbia) pitched their early-stage startups and business plans to address one of the biggest challenges women entrepreneurs face in growing their businesses – access to capital. Following their pitches, investors offered financial support, mentorship and networking opportunities to women entrepreneurs to help scale their businesses.
- This month, the second live Women’s Entrepreneurship EXPO, in partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Yildiz Holding, as part of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator and supported by Mary Kay, brought women entrepreneurs and business partners together to mobilize and take forward specific action to advance the landscape for women’s entrepreneurship development.
- Business Skills Development for Aspiring & Established Entrepreneurs
- The first-ever free online Entrepreneurship Certificate Programme developed by ITC SheTrades in support of WEA was launched in January 2022. Powered by Mary Kay, the 27 module–digital curriculum covers the 7 key stages of the entrepreneurial journey. Available in English, Spanish, French – and soon Arabic, Russian and Chinese – the curriculum is enriched with 200 videos and aims to teach aspiring and established entrepreneurs the skills to design and set up their businesses. Participants learn how to adopt an entrepreneurship culture, develop business ideas and learn start-up methodologies, prepare a business model, design a pitch, identify sources of funding, find the right partners and mentors, and build a team.
- In 2022, ITU developed a project to address the gender digital skills gap by providing women and girls access to free, high-quality learning modules required to advance in the digital economy. Rolled out over the course of 2023, the initiative will be translated into several languages. Supported by Mary Kay, the project includes 17 online modules such as general digital skills training for aspiring and experienced women entrepreneurs; digital skills for women entrepreneurs in the textiles and apparel sector, and management skills for women entrepreneurs in technology. These learning modules provide broad professional training for any woman entrepreneur regardless of her location or business focus.
- Release of a Global Advocacy Brief to Engage the Private Sector on Gender-Responsive Procurement (GRP)
- In 2022, UN Women released an Advocacy Brief in support of WEA titled Procurement’s Strategic Value. Why gender-responsive procurement makes business sense and included a foreword by Deb Gibbins, Chief Operating Officer at Mary Kay. The Brief highlights how economies have better opportunities to grow and are more resilient to crises if women and men have equal rights. It also presents compelling evidence of the benefits for strengthening the participation of women in private sector supply chains to bring about inclusive growth and sustainable development. A broad consultation with 374 stakeholders was conducted to create an evidence base for why businesses should adopt GRP.
- Launch of an Innovation Competition to Create a More Gender-Inclusive Digital Eco-System
- Supported by Mary Kay, ITU will hold an open innovation competition next month where an expert jury will select 10 digital best practices and digital solutions to create a more gender-inclusive eco-system for start-ups and scale-ups to address the many obstacles women entrepreneurs face in developing technologies. The winners will gain access to the Digital Innovation Eco-System Program where they will receive capacity-building and specialized mentorship.
About Mary Kay
One of the original glass ceiling breakers, Mary Kay Ash founded her dream beauty company in 1963 with one goal: enriching women’s lives. That dream has blossomed into a multibillion-dollar company with millions of independent sales force members in nearly 40 countries. As an entrepreneurship development company, Mary Kay is committed to empowering women on their journey through education, mentorship, advocacy, networking, and innovation. Mary Kay is dedicated to investing in the science behind beauty and manufacturing cutting-edge skincare, color cosmetics, nutritional supplements, and fragrances. Mary Kay believes in enriching lives today for a sustainable tomorrow, partnering with organizations from around the world focusing on promoting business excellence, supporting cancer research, advancing gender equality, protecting survivors of domestic abuse, beautifying our communities, and encouraging children to follow their dreams. Learn more at marykayglobal.com, find us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, or follow us on Twitter.
1 Harvard Business Review. 2013. “The Global Rise of Female Entrepreneurs.”
2 BNP Paribas Wealth Management. 2020. “2020 Global Entrepreneur Report.” According to the 2020 Report, 54% of women entrepreneurs noted that beyond income, reducing their carbon footprint is their top measure of success in investing, compared to just 41 percent of men.
3 World Bank. 2022. “Women, Business and the Law 2022.”
4 World Economic Forum. 2022. “Global Gender Gap Report 2022.”
5 European Investment Bank. 2020. “Funding women entrepreneurs: How to empower growth.”
6 Partners include: The China Women’s Development Foundation, the China International Center for Economic and Technical Exchanges, the Women’s Federation of Yunnan Province and Yongren County Government.
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