ONLINE EDUCATION, AT THE CUTTING EDGE OF FEMALE EMPOWERMENT

Nowadays, an increasing number of women are determined to advance their education and training. Online learning has become a great opportunity for women to overcome time constraints they typically face. In fact, recent surveys show that about 60% of students of online degree courses in the United States are women. Are we at the brink of a more egalitarian era in education? How can we promote more spaces for women to flourish professionally?

Cyber- feminist Sadie Plant has acknowledged the Internet as a quintessentially “female technology” because it fosters the free exchange of information, and provides an open and democratic forum where female voices can be heard. Discussion forums, blogs, tweets- they all provide female online learners with opportunities to share knowledge, ideas, experiences, and support.

This synergy represents an unprecedented potential to boost women’s education and skills: to build greater autonomy and empowerment. Facilitating the creation of more online training and development programs for women, regardless of the physical setting is a path towards female empowerment.

By developing online programs and tools that are beneficial to women — regardless of their location, educational level, or income status — stronger and more egalitarian societies could flourish. The U.S. Department of Education reports that 3.8 million American adult women possess literacy skills below a “basic” level. The basic level refers to reading, writing and math skills at a third-grade level. This education deficit makes it more difficult for women to deal with bank statements, the efficient use of credit and other financial services that could help them prosper.

Some challenges women currently face are partly bridged by online training, opening new opportunities for development:

1. Learning opportunities, anywhere. Many women still miss opportunities to continue preparing themselves professionally due to time and location constraints. It is well known that many women endure the “double-shift”, which leaves little time to continue advancing their education. Online learning gives women the chance to find a suitable course or even a degree program they can follow from home. This modality makes it easier for them to manage their time while acquiring knowledge and skills. Greater training results in greater confidence to advance their careers or to run their own businesses efficiently.

2. Self-paced learning: Women have greater autonomy to meet the learning targets arranging a schedule that meets their individual needs. Online learning does not require commuting to attend inflexible class sessions; additionally, learning resources are available at any time. Women who work and take care of children, can fit in some hours of self-paced learning, at their own convenience.

3. Collaboration and solidarity: Online courses encourage collaborative learning environments where dialogue and connectedness is promoted. Peer interaction and dialogue relate new knowledge to real-life contexts and provide a sense of community.

As geographic, technological, and national barriers are blurring, we have a great opportunity in our hands. It is the right time to use the power of online learning environments to promote women’s autonomy and self-determination through education and training.

Angélica Fuentes, Founder Equal Invest

Angélica Fuentes is a Latin American businesswoman and impact investor, who has been recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of Mexico’s most influential women.

Ms. Fuentes was appointed CEO of Grupo Imperial in 1992 and quickly positioned the company as a top player in Northern Mexico’s energy sector. Under her leadership, Grupo Imperial’s annual growth rate increased from 5% in 1992 to 9.5% in 2005. Ms. Fuentes served as President of the Business Energy Network of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Agreement (APEC) from 2002 to 2004, and as President of the Mexican Natural Gas Association from 1996 to 2000. From 2007 to 2015, she served as CEO of Grupo Omnilife-Angelissima-Chivas. Under her leadership, the company became one of the top 100 corporations in Mexico.

Throughout her career, Ms. Fuentes has dedicated significant time and resources to NGOs, international organizations and professional groups that support the cause of women. She participated in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Parity Programme, and led the Mexican Gender Parity Taskforce. She currently serves on Secretary Clinton’s International Council on Women’s Business Leadership; is member of the Private Sector Leadership Advisory Council of UN Women; is a Global Advocate for the Girl Up Campaign, a United Nations Foundation program; co-chairs the PVBLIC LATAM regional platform; is member of the Latin American Program Advisory Board of the Woodrow Wilson International Center; and is member of the Global Dignity’s International Council of Advisors.

Her work in this field has been recognized by numerous honors and awards. In 2015, UN Women gave her the Women’s Empowerment Principles CEO Leadership Award; she was the first female CEO to receive this award for championing gender equality in the private sector. In 2016, PVBLIC Foundation, Ismael Cala Foundation, and the United Nations gave her the award for Latin Woman Empowerment. In 2017, she received the Corporate Social Responsibility Award from The Maestro Cares Foundation.

Gender equality, women empowerment and the eradication of poverty have always been a priority in all her endeavors. In 2014, she established the Angelica Fuentes Foundation. In 2016, she founded A Complete and The Imperative Fund. In 2017, she founded Equal Invest, The Beauty Station and A Complete Journey.