President and CEO of Grameen America Tells Her Story
From Chinese immigrant family to one of Forbes Magazine’s “Most Powerful Women in the World”
On Friday, June 15, 2018, Orr Associates Inc. (OAI) joined forces with the New York City Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals to host a breakfast which was attended by senior leaders from influential nonprofits in New York City.
The keynote speaker was Andrea Jung, President and CEO of Grameen America. She inspired the gathered nonprofit leaders with the story of her family’s journey from its Chinese immigrant roots to business leadership in just two generations, and her own role as a trailblazer for women’s empowerment. She recounted her awakening to the realization that she could combine both business success, and commitment to a purpose, in her career.
“First and foremost, it’s about empowering women”
The story began when Jung’s grandmother – “not my grandfather,” she stressed – obtained an informal loan that allowed her to start up a hair salon. That this loan allowed Jung’s grandmother to launch a business, and particularly one in the beauty industry, foreshadowed two of Jung’s key leadership positions. As CEO at Avon Products, she led the world’s fifth largest beauty company. But Jung pointed out that although most people think of Avon as a company that sells lipsticks and creams, it is first and foremost in the business of empowering women and facilitating their economic independence.
Driving social change, one woman at a time
From Avon, Jung made the decision to move full time into driving social change. She now heads up Grameen America, the fastest-growing microfinance organization in the US. Grameen lends to women living below the poverty line, to encourage them to become entrepreneurs and realize their business vision.
In Jung’s words: “At Avon and Grameen America, I have seen first-hand the powerful impact that entrepreneurship and the opportunity to earn a living can make in a woman’s life.” To date, Grameen America has served more than 100,000 women and disbursed more than $870 million in loans. But Jung’s dreams are much bigger – she aims, in the next decade, to touch the lives of a million Americans, create 300,000 jobs, and invest $5 billion in women entrepreneurs.
Breaking the way for others
The leadership breakfast offered attendees an opportunity to reflect on women’s continuing efforts to shatter the glass ceiling. Jung faced many challenges in her path to the corner office, and to high profile board directorships with companies including Apple and Unilever. It also served to highlight local and national efforts to empower under-served communities, a cause close to the hearts of many of the attendees.
OAI looks forward to continuing its collaboration with AFP-NYC to share ideas at the intersection of business and philanthropy.