THE BLOG

Opportunity, Paid Forward

02/26/2015 03:29 pm ET | Updated Apr 28, 2015

I have long believed how a woman sees herself will largely dictate her life. Her internal perspectives give way to how she presents herself, and in turn, guides how people respond to her. This is when opportunities can present themselves and she can reveal her confidence to take them on.

And yet, in some areas of the world, this opportunity cycle is nonexistent. A woman might see herself as a leader, teacher, innovator, or business owner, but the circumstances and poverty enveloping her community stamps out her access to what could be. Without education and an economy where opportunities even exist, a woman who is poor has a hard time presenting herself as anything but poor.

It was through a conversation with Vicki Escarra, and her work as the CEO of Opportunity International, that I have learned more about the realities of what so many women face in other parts of the world. According to the UN, 70% of the 2.5 billion people living in poverty are women. 70%! For the woman who has an inner perspective of her own strength and believes she could make a better life for herself and her family, lack of opportunity leaves her stuck with little hope and intense vulnerability.

As Vicki and I sat one day over a glass of wine, sharing our stories and desires to make a difference for women, my imagination was captured by the stories she shared of how the training and small business loans provided by Opportunity International had been so transformative. For women full of aptitude, intelligence, and worth, but devoid of hope, these loans opened the door of opportunity, giving them a new story to live into. They could finally see themselves as business owners, community leaders, and even world changers. Carly Fiorina, Global Board Chair of Opportunity International said in the Harvard Business Review, "The single greatest point of untapped leverage in the world today is a woman who could be an entrepreneur." Give a woman the chance to see herself differently, and the opportunity to live into that reality, and community by community, the landscape of poverty across the world can change.

As Vicki and I talked further, I realized we were on our respective paths for the exact same purpose. The business I have helped create at CAbi is predicated on the belief that if you give a woman freedom through opportunity, she can transform her world. This is as true for a CAbi Consultant as it is for a woman making dresses in Nicaragua. And because women are such relational creatures, they leverage relationships every step of the way, bringing others with her up the economic ladder. There clearly was synergistic power between our endeavors--women entrepreneurs could help women entrepreneurs.

And so we've been immensely pleased to announce the W.E. Are CAbi one-for-one program to our CAbi Consultants, through which we will provide a small business loan for a woman in the developing world to build a business in the name of each woman who begins her CAbi business. They will be "sister entrepreneurs," sharing in the belief that they are Women On Purpose, able to live into their fullest potential and help others do the same.

At some point in our lives, something crosses our path that forces us to show the veracity of our belief by putting words into action. It becomes clear that when we have ready access to opportunity, we must pay it forward, for to those who much is given, much is also required. As Women On Purpose, it is our responsibility to take our successes and channel them to stir a ripple of goodness that extends far beyond ourselves.

Our living legacy will be the lives transformed through our generous acts of providing opportunity to others. And it starts in our own minds. In the words of Simon Sinek, "The difference between those who change the world and those who don't is that those who do believe they can."

What do you believe about how you can impact the world around you? How can you give the gift of opportunity to others?