Enterprise and Inequality: A Study of Avon in South Africa


Linda Scott, tel.: +44(0)1865-288-800; e-mail: Linda.Scott@sbs.ox.ac.uk, to Catherine Dolan at Catherine.Dolan@sbs.ox.ac.uk, to Mary Johnstone-Louis at Mary.Johnstone-Louis@sbs.ox.ac.uk, to Kimberly Sugden at Kim.Sugden@sbs.ox.ac.uk, and to Maryalice Wu at malice@illinois.edu.


Avon's apparent success in using entrepreneurship to help women escape poverty, as well as its staying power in circumstances where similar efforts have failed, has captured the attention of the international development community. This study, the first independent empirical investigation, reports that in South Africa, Avon helps some impoverished women earn a better income and inspires empowerment among them. The authors introduce a new theory, pragmatist feminism, to integrate past work on women's entrepreneurship and argue that feminist scholars should reexamine the histories of the market democracies for replicable innovations that may have empowered women.