Fuentes fights forward with women's economic empowerment

Angelica Fuentes' solution to gender inequality focuses on promoting women's economic empowerment through personal training programs and corporate incentives.

In 2014, Forbes Mexico named Fuentes "the face of empowerment", ranking her the 5th most powerful woman in the country. The former CEO of nutritional giant Omnilife and CEO of cosmetics brand Angelíssima, she inspired attendees of the October 13th roundtable on women's economic empowerment - hosted by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security- to seek the best for themselves and fight for their right to economic and cultural equality.  

"One of the biggest challenges [of economic empowerment] that women face is lack of credit, lack of possibility of getting connected with the internet, but also one of the biggest challenges is the cultural pre-conceived ideas that men and women have."

The cultural expectation, that women should prioritize family over employment, affects women in the professional world. A 2013 report by McKinsey and Company backs up this analysis, noting that in a study of 345 companies in Latin America, women held only 8% of executive offices and 5% of positions on executive committees, compared to 14% of companies with female executives and 15% of companies with women in positions on executive committees in the US. 

A 2014 report by the International Labor Organization shows the wage gap between men and women in Latin America is larger, although declining, than that of the US or Western Europe. Women earn 68 percent of what men earn, and this is influenced by a number of factors.  Labor force participation by Latin American women still lags, with only 59.2% of women working compared to 76.6% of men, and many of those employed women work as independent contractors in the service sector. The largest number of women works in the volatile domestic work sector, where some 17 million women work.  

"We need to move the needle a little more- to allow women to tap in to and understand their own power. We have talent, but sometimes the opportunities are not open to them. By telling them and talking to them about who they truly are, they will eventually wake up and raise their voices."

Personal training programs, like Fuentes' Clave DF, help entrepreneurs at all levels and incorporate women in to their programs. Participants are taught skills including door-to-door sales of products (similar to Aveda sales programs), better business practices, and how to access credit. Such programs encourage women to earn their own income, and speak up in the face of legal and cultural discrimination.  

"A Mexican woman in one of our programs...she started doing better business through our training program that we have that allows women to feel better about who they are, allows them to wake up to their own power, teaches them how to better their own businesses and she started doing much better. Not just economically, but then she started feeling good about who she was."

To date her foundation, the Angelica Fuentes Foundation, has worked in tandem with gender-equality advocacy groups to help over 270,000 women. Partnerships with UN Women, Girl Up, and the Clinton Foundation provide professional training, legal resources and community-based microfinance to women throughout Latin America. This November, she will also launch GEF (gender equality fund), a program that will offer incentives to companies who adapt their corporate culture and promote gender equal best practices.  

From Ms. Fuentes' experience, she notes, "gender equality is fundamental to sustainable development". She correlates this with statistics showing that women, in general, tend to spend more on health, education and nutrition, with these effects only being multiplied once women have steady income. The foundation's website states that despite initial drags from inexperience, GDP in Latin America can be increased by 17% if women are gainfully employed. Fuentes hopes that by collecting data, funding new research projects, and campaigning for economic empowerment she can help shed light on day-to-day discrimination, convince companies to make cultural changes, and encourage women to empower themselves.

See Ms. Fuentes describe the difference women's empowerment makes in our interview with her here. To learn more about the Angelica Fuentes Foundation: http://fundangelicafuentes.org/en/

Madeline Sposato