Latinas for Change: Omnilife CEO Angélica Fuentes preaches gospel of empowerment

Angélica Fuentes was a young girl in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, when she became aware she was someone with the power to help other women break down barriers.

“I used to work at my family’s gas station when I was 11. After a couple of weeks, I realized no one gave me a tip,” Fuentes remembered. “When I got home I asked why. I checked tires, cleaned windows ... ‘Why wasn’t I paid like the other guys?’ I was told [it was] because I was a girl.”

She says it was at that exact moment she realized not only that she had a voice, she had to make it heard.

Today she is the CEO of Mexico-based dietary supplement distributor Omnilife, and she has played an active role in a number of organizations meant to empower women for the past 25 years. She’s served on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s International Council on Women’s Business Leadership and as a United Nations advocate for the Girl Up Campaign.

In 2010, she launched Angelíssima, a line of cosmetics and beauty products affiliated with Omnilife.

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And if that weren’t enough on her plate, the mother of two is also co-chair of the abc* Foundation – a “think/do tank,” in the words of its website – which held its fourth annual Continuity Forum in Miami this month. The Forum brought together a group of approximately 500 global entrepreneurs to share stories about how they have helped bring about social change.

Fuentes is certainly one of those agents of social change.

This year she established the Angélica Fuentes Foundation, a private institution which finances organizations and individual scholarships for the development of women leaders.

“This is a personal project that I have to help women move forward by elevating self-esteem — women accepting themselves as powerful, strong human beings and understanding it’s okay for them to take risks,” Fuentes, 51, told Fox News Latino.

Based in Mexico City, Fuentes said that although traditional perceptions of women have improved some, there is still a lot of work to do, because there is still a lot of prejudice against women.

“Sadly, I feel women still perpetuate the machismo in our society, because they don’t realize the power they have,” she said. “We are all human beings, and we are all born with the same rights. Men are taught to take risks, to have ambition, girls are taught to stay quiet, and to be bonita.”

She says she still sees this attitude while working with women in the corporate world.

“It’s all across the board still in 2014,” Fuentes told FNL. “Girls are brought up being taught that they can’t. We need to change that, and a lot of that has to do with women changing how they view themselves, and how they view their children.”

Fuentes hopes to help teach women how to redefine how they see themselves. She gave the example of a woman from Peru named Rosa.

“She was an unbelievably strong woman, but the way she was raised, she put up with being beat up by her husband for years, and she could not let go,” Fuentes remembered. “We spoke a few times about women waking up [to] their own power, and she wrote me one day saying, ‘This is enough. I’m going to start my own business.’”

After gaining more confidence about herself through a training program offered by Angelíssima, Rosa became a distributor and began supporting her three children herself.

“I can only remind women of what it feels like that they can do it,” Fuentes said and added that she was also a victim of abuse in a former marriage. “I talk about it. I can’t stay quiet.”

She says that she tells women that once they feel empowered, they need to help other women.

“We need to raise our voices, we need to raise our hand and say, ‘This is enough. I deserve equal pay to any man,’” Fuentes said.