The Importance of Education: Profile on Deborah Gibbins

SMU Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center Board Member, Deborah Gibbins, is the COO of Mary Kay, Inc. Gibbins joined Mary Kay Inc. in 2013 as Chief Financial Officer following a long career of broad leadership experience. Prior to joining the iconic beauty brand, Gibbins spent 17 years at PepsiCo, where she held senior roles within the finance function, including Senior Vice President of Revenue Management at Frito-Lay North America.

We spoke with Gibbins and asked how human capital and education play an integral role in advancing socio-economic outcomes.

Deborah Gibbins

1) Why did you decide to join the leadership of the SMU Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center?

The SMU Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center goals of open dialogue and engagement and advocacy to advance the bilateral Texas-Mexico relationship, and in particular, the focus on Trade and Investment and Education, Human Capital and Development were important to me and Mary Kay Inc. I also appreciate the Center’s commitment to research that can be applied by legislators. The Center is a clear demonstration of the power of collaboration to solve global issues.

2) Why is it important for Education and Human Capital to be a focus for the Center’s work?

Put simply, education is the foundation on which every aspect of society is built. The consequences of a poor education are widespread, felt for generations, and impact at every socio-economic level. We have so many crucial opportunities to collaborate with Mexican institutions to improve our collective educational programs and prepare a very young and rapidly growing workforce in Texas and Mexico for the future. The skills needed from the workforce today and the future are hugely different from skills needed in the 20th century. Mary Kay (both in Texas and in Mexico) is challenged in finding employees with skills and talents we need to be successful in 2020 and beyond. We have a vested interest in improving talent education and career preparedness of citizens on both sides of the border.

3) What do you think are challenges and opportunities to integrating the Texas and Mexico workforces?

According to census records, Mexicans are the largest foreign-born group in the U.S., accounting for 25 percent of the 44.5 million immigrants as of 2017 and their families. Immigrants have driven 15 percent of the U.S. economic growth between 1990 and 2014. They’ve also founded 30 percent of U.S. firms, including more than 50 percent of startups valued over $1 billion. With these facts, the opportunities are apparent: immigrants will continue to be large part of our economy (especially in Texas), and their contributions benefit both countries. The challenge, now, is shaping legislation so we can more readily and appropriately accept (and welcome) Mexico’s growing skilled labor pool into our communities and businesses.

4) As someone who has seen education lagging in Mexico, what are companies like Mary Kay doing to provide and improve access to opportunities?

According to UN Women, there are 130 million children who are not enrolled in primary school, and 70 percent of them are girls. An important pillar of Mary Kay’s purpose is to empower women and girls though educational opportunities around the globe so that they can provide better lives for themselves, their families, and the communities in which they live and work. We have many programs in place around the world. An example of our efforts in Mexico is Mary Kay Mexico’s donations to the Nido Social organization to help restore two schools in Tlaxiaco, in the state of Oaxaca. Because of Mary Kay’s donation, 260 students were able to attend school. The goal is to provide a safe environment for children and empower future generations.

Most recently, in collaboration with six United Nations agencies, Mary Kay announced the Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator empowered by Mary Kay, a multi-year partner initiative designed to inspire, educate and empower women entrepreneurs in Mexico, the United States and around the world. The Accelerator will offer a guided digital curriculum supplemented by on-the-ground training and mentorship. In addition, it will serve as an advocacy platform to eliminate entrepreneurial roadblocks for women, ranging from digital literacy to legal reform—enabling women to fully participate in the growth of their local and national economies.

5) Is there anything you would like to add that may help our audience understand the importance of educated and skilled workers on both sides of the border?

A country’s sustainable development, at its core, relies almost entirely on education and the investment in human capital. A highly skilled labor pool offers competitive advantages including rate-of-production benefits and quality of living improvements. Education is proven to increase a person’s chance of living a healthy life, reduces maternal deaths, combats disease and can promote gender equality. The importance of continually developing educational opportunities in the U.S. and Mexico cannot be overstated.

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