10/01/2010 07:46 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Women's Rights and Women's Dreams: Helping Others Achieve Their Goals

I don't think I've ever spent so much time with as many inspiring women as I did last week. My week began in New York at the Women: Inspiration and Enterprise (WIE) Symposium, where I heard from Donna Karan, Arianna Huffington, Ashley Judd, Diane Von Furstenberg and dozens of other female business leaders and philanthropists. Two days later I attended the annual Alice Awards luncheon that is held by the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum in Washington, DC. The award is named for Alice Paul, a leader in winning women the right to vote and the author of the "Equal Rights Amendment." This year's luncheon marked the 90th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which enfranchised women, and it honored Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Whatever your politics, it's impossible to deny that Speaker Pelosi has been a strong advocate for women. She spoke about the first time she sat down to meet with the president and vice president as speaker of the house, saying that she felt very crowded in her chair because she had Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul and so many others who worked so hard for women's rights sitting right there with her. Isn't that just a great visual?

It made me think about all the women who have helped me in my own life. I may not be speaker of the house, but I am the first woman in my family to earn an MBA -- and I actually skipped the step of getting an undergraduate degree! When my boss and mentor looked me in the eye one day and said "you need to get your MBA ... there's so much more you can do with this company if you have it," it never even crossed my mind that I didn't have to have an undergrad degree first!

I got that can-do attitude from my Southern mother who always did whatever was needed to get the job done -- and didn't quit till it WAS done! When I shared my dream with my boyfriend and now husband, Chuck, he said "I will do whatever it takes to help you achieve that goal!" And my three sons, who may have thought I was just a little crazy to take this on as a single mom working a more-than-full-time job when two of them were in college themselves ... well they cheered me on and, in fact, stood up at my graduation and proudly cheered "That's our Mom!" And, of course, there was my network of family, especially my sisters, female friends and coworkers that stepped in to support, encourage and help push me through the process.

One of my primary and most cherished roles at Tupperware Brands is to facilitate that kind of mentorship and support among our more than two million sales consultants around the world, from the ones who have been at it for years and now make six figure incomes to people who just signed up looking for a way to make ends meet. Perhaps the most amazing and unexpected thing I've seen in my role is how helping even one woman can raise the quality of life for so many people around her, particularly in developing nations. That's why we say our passion is "Changing Lives One at a Time."

When a woman joins Tupperware Brands, we provide her with training, mentorship, business skills and recognition. With each step she takes, she gains confidence and becomes more and more successful ... and with that success and confidence comes influence. Her friends, family and neighbors see this plus the earnings opportunity and they want to get involved too. Eventually, this can raise the living standard of an entire community, a process that has come to be called "The Tupperware Effect," and it's a process we're trying to take viral through our Chain of Confidence campaign.

One interesting thing is that this effect really only works with women, as research shows when women in developing nations have money they are more likely to spend it on educating and nurturing their families, whereas men are more likely to spend it on themselves. When you help a woman ... you help a community.

That's why the fight to improve women's lives remains so critical, 90 years after we got the right to vote. Speaker Pelosi talked about the Paycheck Fairness Act, the health reform bill and working toward quality, affordable child care for everyone. These things are often seen as "women's issues," yet they impact all of us. Still, if we don't lead the fight, who will?

Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy, Ph.D. has written a small but mighty book entitled "The Power Living Pledge." It is full of affirmations that guide you into a purposeful life. She includes a quote from Buddah that goes "Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it." When Speaker Pelosi closed the luncheon by urging everyone in the audience to "know your power" and get involved in furthering their rights, I thought of this quote again and I couldn't agree more.