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Direct Selling and Women Empowerment

Posted by : Jasmine on | Aug 31,2013

Many industry reports from around the world show that the Direct Selling industry is made up of a majority of women. Many of these women are now using the Internet as a convenient and reliable source of information and support while growing their business. According to a recent report by the World Federation of Direct Selling Association (WFDSA), more than 90 million people worldwide are involved in this industry of which at least 80% are women. 
With network marketing being a topic of interest recently in Egypt, we spoke to Donna Imson, the Executive Chairperson of QNET to find out what makes this profession so attractive to women, the attributes one needs to make it in this business and how it helps women. 
1.Why is direct selling a major source of attraction for many women? 
More than 65 million women around the world find direct selling to be the answer to gaining control of their own time, often while working in other full- or part-time careers and while being wives and mothers-managers of households. Statistics show that more than 80% of people involved in this industry globally are women.

In many countries, especially emerging economies, cultural norms and structural forces tend to steer women away from full-time jobs in the formal economy. With no initial investments in terms of infrastructure or manpower, and flexible work hours, direct selling has made entrepreneurship more attractive especially for women who want to be part time entrepreneurs.
In the corporate world, the tendency is for a man to be in the position of authority, to get the higher pay for the same job, to make it up the corporate ladder faster. The beauty of our profession is that it is gender neutral. Anyone who does the work required gets paid the same way. Same thing is true for advancing in ranks. This is great news for us women! We don’t need to be a man to succeed. We don’t need to compete in a man’s world. NM is everyone’s world. Man or woman, it’s a level-playing field. 

2.Are there certain requirements or qualifications for being engaged in direct selling? 
People can engage in direct selling in different ways- as a customer, a retailer, a business builder, or all three.
At its core, direct selling is simply an alternative channel of distributing products and services that bypasses middlemen and retail stores, avoids costly advertising and directly sells to customers while compensating those who refer customers.  It taps into the most effective form of advertising- word-of-mouth.
As a business, it is one of the oldest forms of social entrepreneurship. As such, a combination of a genuine desire to help people coupled with a driving passion for success would be a critical factor for anyone wanting to be a business builder. The adage I was taught as a newbie in the profession 20 years ago still holds true today- 
You become successful as you help others succeed.
The most important factor is the ‘WHY’. WHY did you choose to get into Network Marketing in the first place? NM is one of the most difficult things anyone can do. It’s nowhere near easy and although it’s simple, it is certainly not quick. 
To assume a leadership position, women have to first recognise that we are worthy of the leadership position; that we deserve it, and that the organisation needs us. We are the heart of an organisation. Can you imagine what an organisation would be like without its heart? 
Most times we don’t lead because we don’t believe we can. We hide under the excuse that women are better followers. NM is filled with strong, determined men. That’s not an arena that we can compete in and win. Instead, we need to embrace our unique strengths, harness these, and work on adding incredible value to the organisation, while maintaining our feminine edge.

3.How does NM fit into the everyday family life of a woman? 
Women have different needs and wants. Beyond the flashy car or the mansion, women dream of providing better education and wellbeing, more flexibility of hours, and more opportunities to give to themselves and their loved ones.
One thing I love about direct selling is that it can be woven into anyone’s everyday life. My youngest daughter was 3 years old when I got into it. I would take her along with me to presentations while my older children were in school. I would plan my day around them when they were in school and would be back to being a full time mom by the time they were back home.

4.What tips do you give women when they ask about balancing work and family life?
Honestly, there is no such thing as a work-life balance. When you start looking at it that way, it means you have to choose. That proverbial pull is constant. Either you feel that family life is getting in the way of work or work is getting in the way of you being a better parent, a better wife, etc. 
What I’ve learnt is to be able to create harmony among all of these roles I play. We do put more time and effort into work because that’s how we get paid. So why not put that same intensity and commitment into the other areas of my life? Why not also work to be the best mother, sister, friend we could ever be? It doesn’t require 8 hours daily, 5 days a week.
Our profession is a gift to women because it provides a great environment for women who want to have it all- personal, relational, financial success.

5.Apart from the economic benefits, how do you see this business benefiting women? 
One of the biggest drawbacks for women in general is grappling with insecurity or low self-esteeem in a larger way. One survey says that 75% of women deal with insecurity in one form or another. Organisations need to develop programs that build up and empower women. That’s where I find that the personal development side of DS is so amazing, because it really develops the confidence women have in themselves. 
6.What sort of challenges do women face in this business? 
Being a gender-neutral business, where women get the same opportunity and get paid the same way as men, most of the challenges women face would be similar to those that men face. Having said that, women in some countries would have challenges specific to their culture.

7.Could you share with us your opinion regarding the future of direct selling in Egypt? 
Globally Direct Selling is an approximately US$168 billion industry with more than 90 million people involved in it as distributors of a wide range of products and services. The socio-economic impact of this industry is well documented in many countries especially in reducing youth unemployment. The 2012 WFDSA report states that the industry is seeing a strong growth in emerging markets around the world, demonstrating the solid economic and entrepreneurial opportunity direct selling offers to people from all walks of life.
QNET is concerned about the mushrooming of dubious and fraudulent schemes operating under the garb of direct selling or multi-level marketing opportunities in Egypt. Policy interventions can provide a conducive and sustainable operating environment for genuine direct selling companies. The need of the hour is legislation. A clear legislation helps keep in check fly by night operators. 
The potential of the direct selling business to generate employment, especially for women, and its positive socioeconomic impact provides a case to encourage direct selling. Hence, I would urge the authorities to address these gaps and create a regulatory framework for the industry to flourish. 

8.Finally, what is your last advice for women willing to engage in that business? 
Celebrate your femininity and your womanhood. I stopped wearing business suits some time back. I started wearing clothes that are professional and yet allow me to express my femininity.
The 21st century is the Women’s century. It is the biggest thing trending now. The biggest economic drivers across the world are going to be women, which means that majority of income is going to be earned by women.

Make sure you are front, right and centre in this bold new world. Take hold of your destiny and embrace it. Push yourself to be the best YOU. Educate yourself, and surround yourself with people who believe in you. This is going to be an amazing time for women. Let it be an amazing time for you.