37% of women worldwide do not have access to the internet. I know - I had to read that twice, too.1
37%! The number is staggering. It feels impossible. In our always-on, always-connected world, how can more than a third of all women in the world remain “unconnected”? This shocking reality - and its implications - fuel this year’s International Women’s Day theme: “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.”
As Chief Operating Officer at Mary Kay, I know the role technology plays in all aspects of business – especially entrepreneurial business. To maximize the opportunity offered by technology, digital literacy skills are an absolute requirement for women entrepreneurs to fully participate in our global economy. They are also a necessity for civic and social engagement.
The foundations for the Fourth Industrial Revolution are digital and they are being laid right now. For all of us this revolution holds the tremendous opportunity to leverage technology and innovation to advance women entrepreneurship and equality. The time is now to ensure women reap the benefits of this digital transformation.
The digital economy won’t wait for anyone to catch up. Women’s exclusion from the digital world has shaved $1 trillion from the gross domestic product of low- and middle-income countries in the last decade.2 Once again, change is not happening fast enough for women.
We can fix this. We must fix this.
To reach their full potential, women business owners around the world must not only have access to the digital tools we take for granted, but they must have the right skills and training to use them effectively.
That’s why bridging the digital gender gap is so personal to us at Mary Kay, a company founded by a woman for women.
Our founder, Mary Kay Ash, had a vision to offer women unmatched entrepreneurial opportunities for advancement and personal success. That means something different today than it did in the ‘60s, but that same spirit remains. As an entrepreneurship development company, our focus is lifting women entrepreneurs up and addressing the barriers they face in establishing or growing their business. Digitalization is one of them.
At Mary Kay, we are determined to put women entrepreneurs at the center of the digital transformation.
We’ve accelerated our digital innovation efforts – this includes revolutionizing Mary Kay’s Independent Beauty Consultants’ (IBCs) ability to unleash their full potential through digital upskilling, the development and roll-out of innovative digital tools, from award-winning apps featuring augmented reality (AR), to connecting IBCs with their customers in more effective and seamless ways. We’re improving not only the experience for the independent sales force, but for their customers around the world.
Here are some of the latest examples of our commitment to empower Mary Kay’s independent sales force to harness the power of digital:
- In Europe, our award-winning “Link & Learn” is an integrated education platform comprising a robust learning curriculum IBCs can access anytime, anywhere. This self-paced, interactive learning system helps consultants put their dreams into action by providing a competency-based curriculum with relevant, expert-driven content while connecting them with a community of like-minded consultants. It includes content focused on the key areas of competency that are essential for success at each step of the career path. With this content, consultants strategically focus on key topics and acquire skills such as Selling Skills, Business Skills, Product Knowledge and Understanding the Mary Kay Way. Mary Kay has received numerous awards for this educational platform, including a coveted gold ranking in the Education category in the “2019 Spring Omni Awards.” In 2021 Mary Kay Poland received the “Innovative Company” award for the program from the Home & Market magazine, and in 2018 it was awarded a “Technology Excellence Award” from the Brandon Hall Group.
- The InTouch® platform is a one-stop shop mobile platform which provides millions of IBCs around the world 24-hour access to information, and services to effectively manage their Mary Kay business. It includes many features to enhance their knowledge of the beauty industry through product education, basic business skills through marketing and sales tools, and a professional network. With this app, IBCs can access product ingredient information and material to share with their customers or as a quick reference.
- The Salesforce.com platform has also recently been rolled out to our Mary Kay markets via the Mary Kay InTouch site, enabling a more seamless use of digital technology in day-to-day operations, including placing orders. IBCs receive 24/7 support from their local Mary Kay teams and save time to focus on tasks that add more value to their business.
- Mary Kay Mirror Me™ is our real-time makeover app using augmented reality to apply makeup trends and color products for real life application. After finding their perfect look, customers can add products to their shopping bag and connect with an IBC. Mirror Me™ is available in the North America, Europe and Latin America regions.
- Mary Kay® Skin Analyzer is a tool that brings skin care and technology together at one’s fingertips. It helps customers understand the unique characteristics of their skin and create a customized skin care routine and is available in the North America, Asia-Pacific and Latin America regions.
- And finally, the newly launched Mary Kay Interactive Catalog brings Mary Kay catalogs to life with easy product ordering, GIFs, videos, shareable wish lists, instant augmented reality makeovers and more. The catalog is available in the North America, Europe and Latin America regions.
We also believe in digital collaborations to help women entrepreneurs harness the power of digital throughout the world. To this end, we have joined forces with:
- The International Telecommunication Union (ITU). In collaboration with the Women Entrepreneurship Accelerator (WEA) and Mary Kay Global, ITU has launched the WEA Digital Innovation Challenge to build enabling eco-systems for women entrepreneurs. This challenge supports the commitment of WEA to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2030. WEA is a multi-partnership initiative on women's entrepreneurship convening 6 United Nations agencies comprising International Telecommunication Union (ITU), International Labour Organization (ILO), International Trade Centre (ITC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Global Compact (UNGC) and UN Women. The Challenge’s pitch finale will be held on March 13th during the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67). An expert jury will select 10 digital best practices and solutions to create a more gender-inclusive eco-system for start-ups and scale-ups to address the obstacles women entrepreneurs face in developing technologies. The winners will gain access to the Digital Innovation Eco-System Program from ITU where they will receive capacity-building and specialized mentorship. Register to the event here.
- In support of WEA, ITU is also working to address the gender digital skills gap by providing women entrepreneurs access to free, high-quality learning modules required to advance in the digital economy. To be 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 including 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.
- As a product of WEA, the International Trade Centre (ITC) launched its first-ever free online Entrepreneurship Certificate Programme in 2022 under its SheTrades program. Powered by Mary Kay, the 27-module digital curriculum, enriched with 200 videos, covers the 7 key stages of the entrepreneurial journey and is available in English, Spanish, French, and soon Arabic and Chinese.
- Mary Kay is also a proud commitment maker to the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation as we believe in the power of multi-stakeholder partnerships to spark a more equal and diverse digital transformation.
And we’re just getting started. The digital revolution is underway. Let’s not miss out on this golden opportunity to enable women and girls to champion entrepreneurship in the digital age!
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 more than 35 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 from 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 ITU (2022). Facts and Figures 2022 - The gender digital divide (itu.int)
2 UN Women. Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. The Gender Snapshot 2022.