The company was actually founded on creating earnings opportunities for women, even before it went into skincare, lipstick, and fragrance. The founding Avon principle, before women could vote and when basically only men were working, was to allow women to get out of their homes and to create an entrepreneurship opportunity for them.
That was very much ahead of its time back in the 1880s and, not surprisingly, it was met with some resistance. [I]f you fast forward to today and the fact that we're the single largest source of employment for women (broadly speaking, as the reps are independent contractors), we've been an important creator of entrepreneurship for women.
Source: For Avon, the 21st Century Is Calling: http://finance.yahoo.com/expert/article/leadership/47560
Contributed by: ~C4Chaos