According to the latest research by the U.S. Direct Selling Association (DSA), a record 20.5 million people were involved in direct selling in the United States alone last year, a 1.5 percent increase from the previous year. Women continue to dominate the independent contractor male-to-female ratio, last measured in 2016 at 26 percent male to 74 percent female.
Maybe it’s not surprising that women constitute the majority of the direct selling salesforce, 3-to-1. After all, the channel provided many women with one of the first opportunities to achieve what had previously been difficult to attain—independent working woman status.
Today, as we close in on 100 years after a woman’s right to vote was finally granted in the United States, women are still seeking opportunities that have been previously unattainable—as senior executives at multi-million dollar companies. In recognition of the female executives who fill those chairs, we asked 20 of the most influential of them to provide their insights on the channel and the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for it.
As our third time chronicling the channel’s top female executives, this year we approached the special issue from a fresh angle. We asked them to share their views via email on topics relevant to the entire segment, and we present their thought-provoking ideas and concerns in the following seven articles. These stories cover topics that range from the lack of gender parity at the executive level to the process for launching new brands to founders who lead their own companies.
Direct Selling News selected this group of women based upon their executive leadership roles in companies that appeared on the Global 100 list, as well as from private companies that have grown considerably over the past few years. These leaders are representative of many other women hard at work in companies not listed here.
These women live and work in all parts of the country. Some are introverted. Others are extroverted. A few lead some of our channel’s oldest and most successful companies. Some lead the channel’s most exciting newcomers. Several of these executives come from impressive careers at well-known international brands such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. A number of them work in—or are founders of—companies that began as small endeavors, but due to their unrelenting passion have become standouts.
The similarities among these 20 business leaders, however, far outweigh any of their differences. Their entrepreneurial spirit, willingness to sacrifice and drive for excellence in achievement clearly set them apart as women of influence.
For example, Candace Matthews, Amway’s Regional President of the Americas, who attended Carnegie Mellon University and later graduated with an MBA from Stanford, came to Amway from some of the most well-known and best-loved international brands: Coca-Cola, L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble and General Mills. Her work at Amway—seven years as the Chief Marketing Officer and now nearly two as Regional President of the Americas at the world’s largest direct selling company—has brought her a great deal of positive recognition.
Jeunesse Global Founder and COO Wendy Lewis has been named one of the Direct Selling News Most Influential Women for the third time for her dedication and hard work building growing family of Jeunesse business around the world. In the recent 14th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business Wendy Lewis received a Gold Stevie for Lifetime Achievement in Business, as well as four Silver Stevies for:
- Female Executive of the Year
- Female Entrepreneur of the Year
- Women Helping Women
- Woman of the Year
Another female executive recognized in this issue, Mona Ameli, President of Medifast’s OPTAVIA, was educated in Paris, France, with advanced degrees in business management and marketing. She has spent time at well-known companies such as Herbalife and Shaklee and most recently served as General Manager of Belcorp, USA. Fluent in three languages—French, Spanish and English—Ameli has a heart for women’s issues, having founded a nonprofit organization to help women and families struggling with domestic violence.
A mother of four, Melanie Huscroft, Co-Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of beauty company Younique, determined early that success with her company would lead her toward establishing a foundation dedicated to helping women who were childhood and adolescent victims of sexual abuse. Huscroft has certainly found tremendous success through her passion and dedication, along with her flair for fashion.
These leaders are among the 20 most influential women in direct selling celebrated in the following pages for their achievements. But perhaps the single greatest impact this collection of smart, tenacious executives has is their overarching influence on the lives of hundreds of thousands, even millions, of women across the world who find work and meaning within a direct sales opportunity—and, in turn, make a difference in the lives of their families and in the future of their communities. (Direct Selling News, Stevie Awards)