We often talk about the flexible hours, sense of empowerment and opportunity to create better lives for themselves and their families enjoyed by direct sellers. Particularly, we mean the 12.2 million women in the U.S. who operated their own independent direct selling businesses in 2011, contributing to the industry’s $29.87 billion in retail sales. However, it’s important to remember that women are transforming the industry not only in the field, but in executive leadership positions—as CEOs, executive vice presidents, directors, managers and general counsels.
Representing just a small sample of today’s female pioneers in the direct sales channel, more than 20 founders, CEOs and top executives from a variety of direct selling companies gathered in Washington, D.C., for DSA’s second Women’s Leadership Retreat on Sept. 11-12, 2012. These women not only met with one another to share their compelling stories, but to also take part in the association’s Direct Selling Day on the Hill, providing Members of Congress with a unique, female perspective on the industry.
As DSA and company executives work to educate the public about the contributions direct sellers make to the U.S. and global economies, it’s never been more important for women to utilize these opportunities to assert their roles as leaders of this transformative industry.
Women comprise a majority of today’s direct selling salesforce—more than 80 percent—and those women who have started or are in top positions at direct selling companies have a very visible and important role in helping to illustrate the wide range of opportunities available in this sales channel. By taking on these top-level positions, women serve as role models for the countless mothers, wives, students, young professionals and retirees who have fulfilled their dreams of being their own boss, of having their own business and of maintaining a schedule that allows them to balance personal and career aspirations.
In today’s economic climate it’s more important than ever that women are recognized as key drivers of the economy who can fulfill many roles simultaneously. Thanks to the example set by the female CEOs who joined us in Washington, D.C., for the Women’s Leadership Retreat, many Members of Congress and their staffs got a first-hand look at the power of the direct sales channel to change lives—directly and indirectly.
It is through outreach initiatives such as these that direct selling will come to be appropriately credited as an indispensable element of a healthy economy. Thanks to the unyielding efforts of many of today’s female direct selling executives, women are increasingly willing and able to serve as active participants in national discussions on the role that free enterprise plays in the economic recovery process.
It is often said that the spirit of entrepreneurialism is crucial to the future growth of the U.S. economy. Recognizing that they serve as the representatives of more than 12 million female entrepreneurs in the U.S., today’s leading women in direct selling provide a critical resource for those looking to launch their own careers in the channel. They selflessly give of their time to remind key policymakers about the importance of protecting an industry that fulfills such a vital role in the national economy. They provide countless inspiring stories about how this industry helps shape the lives of women—and men—across the country, many of whom have been directly impacted by job cuts, education costs and loan payments. They influence individuals of all backgrounds to pursue their greatest business goals, no matter their stage in life.
As I sat in meetings on Capitol Hill last week and listened to these incredible direct selling women tell their stories it was a refreshing reminder that no matter how much technology evolves or society changes, the entrepreneurial spirit is always alive and well. Whether leading a company or pursuing far more modest goals, every woman involved in direct selling has an amazing story, and we will all be well served to make sure those stories are told, whenever and wherever possible.
Amy M. Robinson is the Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of the U.S. DSA.