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The American Dream is no doubt evolving. Gone may be the days when a house, two and a half children, a dog and a white picket fence were universally accepted as the be-all and end-all. But, the founding principle of this nation’s vision—the opportunity for prosperity, success and upward social mobility—remains highly sought-after, even as technological advancements, rising costs of education and economic challenges have changed the way many of us define success.
For those of us long familiar with direct selling, we understand wholeheartedly the many ways in which this industry touches the lives of millions each day. We see firsthand how mothers, recent college graduates, military spouses and post-retirement individuals pursue economic success, social networking and career advancement by way of the business opportunity. We take pride in direct selling’s ability to provide much-needed support to social causes around the world, and we experience the direct selling difference ourselves each time we stop to listen to a distributor’s success story.
While this industry presents a truly equal opportunity for both men and women, it is no secret that women have played an active role in transforming direct selling into what it is today: an industry that changes lives for the better.
Of the 15.9 million direct sellers in the United States, roughly 77 percent are women. What’s more, these 12.2 million women comprise a diverse group, not simply in terms of age or race, but also in terms of education, career experience, skills and interests. In fact, according to the DSA’s National Salesforce Study, more than half of all direct sellers have a bachelor’s or advanced degree. And, still, more than half of direct sellers have children under 18 at home.
Perhaps most telling is the fact that these numbers reveal an overlap between the two groups. Even as women in the direct sales channel pursue higher levels of education, many still balance family responsibilities and career aspirations simultaneously. These numbers not only reflect similar trends in the U.S. national workforce, but they also support recent findings regarding women’s perceptions of the American Dream.
According to a recent Forbes survey, 84 percent of working women say that staying home to raise children is a financial luxury to which they aspire either temporarily or long-term. This number is particularly astounding when one takes into consideration how the rising cost of living has made this dream more difficult to achieve.
In 2010, the Department of Commerce issued a study revealing what it would take for families to achieve the aspirations of the middle class—which it defined as home and car ownership, opportunities for vacations, access to health care and enough savings to retire and contribute to the children’s college education. The study concluded that even two-earner families today would have more difficulty achieving middle-class status than they had two decades ago.
Direct selling certainly offers a solution, which no other industry can match. Even more, countless women stand as mentors to those who follow in their footsteps, looking to provide much-needed support at home without sacrificing the opportunity to build a successful business.
These women not only serve as leaders in the field, but also at the executive level. The female perspective of the direct selling industry is widely represented by women so inspired by the opportunity that they have risen to top-level positions in efforts to provide guidance to those who look to the sales channel as a source for supplemental income, social empowerment and personal growth. These women give selflessly of their time to spark a passion for social causes, raise funding for charitable organizations and drive more people to channel their creative energy to give back to others. These women also work tirelessly to remind key policymakers and regulators about the impact of direct selling on the national economy and otherwise slow-to-improve employment rates.
Perhaps most importantly of all, they inspire us each and every day to establish our own definition of the American Dream—such that we might carve our own paths for achieving it.
Amy M. Robinson is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of the Direct Selling Association.