09/12/2012 12:20 pm ET Updated Nov 12, 2012

Ignite the Ripple Effect to Empower Women

Sexism continues to shape our world, in the developing world and the industrialized world, for the lives of women. The aspect where this is most sharply felt is in economic terms and the differences in the financial success between men and women. We all know the familiar stats, for instance that women in the USA are paid approximately 73 cents for every dollar paid to men. We know that dry cleaners mysteriously charge more to dry clean a woman's blouse than to launder a man's shirt, even though women earn less. But it's what women don't know about the assistance opportunities and access to financing that is most frustrating.

Since the launch of Dermalogica's initiative in January 2011, I have travelled the world discussing microfinance and the beneficial ripple effect it spawns in communities everywhere. Working with I've seen how extending a microloan to a woman, generally an entrepreneurial woman who cannot get funding from a traditional bank, sparks a chain-reaction which touches every aspect of not only her life, but of many people within her sphere of influence. In this sense, a microloan to an entrepreneurial woman is not only life-changing, but may in fact be world-changing.

Thanks to joinFITE, this change is as simple as a few mouse-clicks. These few steps change the lives of women, their children, and the world, in outward-spreading ripples. Consider one of the loan recipients we've empowered, Efia. She's a single mother in New York City, a skin therapist like me and who works at a spa and doubles as a makeup artist. Efia lost her brother in the World Trade Center bombing of September 11. In part to honor her brother's memory, and in part to create a life of opportunity for her daughter, she created a lip gloss collection in 2003, called Smucci.

Currently, Efia is using a loan partially funded by joinFITE to purchase a new computer and re-launch her e-commerce site, making it easier for consumers to buy her products online.

While Efia was able to grow her business thanks to microfinance, many entrepreneurs are not aware of this option when they are denied funding from banks. An independent survey recently conducted through uSamp revealed that far more men than women understand the concept of microfinance. Among US consumers, 62% of men surveyed said that they were "familiar" with the concept of microloans, while only 38% of women surveyed said the same.

This disparity is disturbing since millions of women and their children live at, or below the poverty-level. Though men also live in poverty, there is a greater proportion of women, the overwhelming majority of whom are mothers, in need of economic empowerment. Many of these women, regardless of geographic location, do not qualify for loans from traditional banks. One reason for this is that only 1% of the world's land is owned by women, making it that much harder for women to obtain loans as this is the most time-honored form of capital.

In the United States, small business loans are increasingly difficult to secure as the result of the worldwide economic downturn. The independent survey revealed that 58% of the men who applied for loans were approved, versus 42% of the women who applied. The conclusion can be drawn that women are not only not receiving the assets they need to succeed in business, but are also unaware of the additional resources provided to them, such as microfinance.

This must change.

Each one of us, as an individual, has the power to ignite a ripple effect by investing in a woman entrepreneur. As the founder and owner of Dermalogica, I am deeply committed to being a part of sparking this movement and have made the commitment a part of my company's mission. As such, we have partnered with Kiva this month to provide 4,000 free trial loans so that you can create change in another's life, allowing her to invest in her own potential, and that of her children.

More than 81% of the loans funded through Kiva have been to women borrowers, in more than 60 countries. And, loans through Kiva have a 98.9% repayment rate. Working with Kiva, joinFITE has now invested in more than 25,000 women entrepreneurs worldwide.

Statistics demonstrate that women are more inclined to invest their earnings back into their family, which can include their children's education. Providing a microloan to a woman affects communities and local economies in a large way to create a ripple effect of change. My belief, shared with many global organizations and economists, is that empowering women in business will be the largest single component of our world's economic recovery. If you want you, your children, your family and your community to benefit from the solution, take this opportunity to engage and participate. Now.