Thursday, March 15, 2012

When Women Rule

This post is by Jane Wurwand, founder of skin care system Dermalogica, which is partnering with Kiva to supply loans to women around the world. This is the second of a series of posts celebrating Women’s History Month and the incredible ripple effect women can have on their families, communities and countries when they have access to the right resources.

March is Women’s History Month, but here in the U.S., we’re confronted with a stark reality: Women are dropping out of the game when our participation matters most. There are fewer female CEOs today than in years past, fewer women in public office, and fewer women serving on influential corporate boards. To cap it off, recent surveys show that American women today describe themselves as less ambitious than they were a decade ago.

With the media laser focused on the upcoming presidential election, it’s hard to ignore the fact that there isn’t a woman on or anywhere near the ballot. In fact, fewer women are running for political office across the board.

And yet, a woman is king.

Right now, a former secretary in Washington, D.C. is making history in West Africa -- not as a queen, but as a king. Not long ago, “King Peggy,” a.k.a. Peggielene Bartels, was awoken by a 4 a.m. phone call informing her that, through an unlikely chain of familial inheritance, she was to be crowned king of Otuam, a village of 7,000 in Ghana.

Talk about a wake-up call. When Peggy arrived to the village, she felt like she had literally been summoned by her ancestors to make right what had gone terribly wrong. Not only did the village lack potable water, there was no medical care, no high school. Despair and illness were widespread. And worst of all: violence against women and girls was commonplace, accepted, and even expected.

Unsurprisingly, she met with strong opposition from the male tribal elders. But Peggy stood her ground, remaking simply, “This woman here is on a mission. I’m chosen. I am going to rule and rule you right.” Then she set about changing things.

While I have never aspired to the throne, I have been fortunate enough to own and run a successful business -- a business which, for the past 25 years, has been successful due to the support of other women. In gratitude to these women, and inspired by the need for greater equality for women worldwide, Dermalogica took action. In January 2011, the Dermalogica Foundation teamed up with Kiva to create the joinFITE program.

This women’s microlending initative makes small loans available to enterprising women all over the world so that they may start or grow businesses. By giving these women the opportunity to become financially, independent, we create a ripple effect of positive change, bringing prosperity to their families and communities at large.

King Peggy has now made it her mission to change the way of life in her village. But her doing so shines a bright light into dark places everywhere. As women, we are all called to and capable of doing the same thing -- if only in little ways every day. Women are powerful agents of change -- never more powerful than when they have the support they need.

In this spirit, Dermalogica is taking its commitment to women a step further as global partner of the Kiva Women campaign. During the month of March, Dermalogica is funding a $100,000 Kiva Women Free Trial program that will enable new Kiva users to direct $25 loans to women borrowers of their choice. Learn more and empower a woman today at

Jane Wurwand is the founder and owner of groundbreaking skin care system Dermalogica. Today, Dermalogica products are used by more than 75,000 skin therapists in over 50 countries. She also spearheaded the joinFITE initiative, which will help 25,000 women worldwide start or grow a business.