Women need to create a global movement on the scale of #metoo because wage inequality is a massive issue throughout the world. One of the things that brings the US and China together in this time of tense relations, for instance, is the fact that both have yawning gaps in wages between men and women. If the men of both countries wish to fight each other, so be it — but I think women can come together.
As part of my series about “the five things we need to do to close the gender wage gap” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kaiwen Wan. Kaiwen is a young, female, minority CEO, born in small-town China, educated in hardscrabble Appalachia, and sharpened in the alleys and boardrooms of New York City. She built Palapod, an application that enables people from all walks of life to become entrepreneurs, within a year of moving to New York, and raised over $100K in investment in the span of a single summer.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” that brought you to this career path?
I’ve always identified with the underdog in life, since I come a country where a women struggle under more than a thousand years of expectations. Later, in the US, I achieved an MBA degree, but even here in this land of equality for all, I found that women’s wages were below that of my male peers. Equally important, I also noticed that the people of Appalachia as well as my co-founder’s state of Michigan, whether male or female, were getting left behind, and with jobs being lost year by year, people needed something to guide them on the path to self-employment. This is the backstory which led to Palapod.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
When I launched this company, I was astounded by the serendipity of how things came together. I wanted to create my own startup team to become an example for all the other teams that I would be forming through Palapod. However, the problem was that I was actually kind of timid at meetings and events, but once I opened up and was willing to tell my backstory, people wanted to talk to me, and I felt I had something to offer, which increased my confidence.
Can you share a story about the funniest or most interesting mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was frustrated when I got my first case of founder burnout, and I thought it was bad. But then I realized that I’m building an application to help people become entrepreneurs, so it was an excellent data point for me to help other entrepreneurs! At the same time, I decided that I need to maintain a balanced life because I’m serving as an example to other entrepreneurs, and so I should be happy myself.
Ok let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. Even in 2019, women still earn about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. Can you explain three of the main factors that are causing the wage gap?
Women themselves haven’t awakened completely yet. Essentially, women still underestimate their abilities, fail to work together in many cases, and fail to come together and create enough positive communities. The community has united to fight against negative ideas, such as fighting back against sexual harassment through the #metoo movement, but we also need to come together around amazing things that we’re doing out in the world.
Can you share with our readers what your work is doing to help close the gender wage gap?
We help women to know that they can make their mark in the world, and create something amazing — maybe even their own movement if they don’t give up. If women create their own businesses, find teams that truly believe in them, and build communities, anything is possible. Most importantly, female entrepreneurs don’t need to ask their bosses for a raise because they’re the bosses themselves!
Can you recommend 5 things that need to be done on a broader societal level to close the gender wage gap. Please share a story or example for each.
1) Men need to take up the cause. It should not simply be seen as a women’s issue but a human issue.
2) Women need to create a global movement on the scale of #metoo because wage inequality is a massive issue throughout the world. One of the things that brings the US and China together in this time of tense relations, for instance, is the fact that both have yawning gaps in wages between men and women. If the men of both countries wish to fight each other, so be it — but I think women can come together.
3) We need political candidates to bring the issue to the forefront. This election season in the US is better because we have plenty of female candidates, but I also strongly support Andrew Yang because his “freedom dividend” would bring monetary compensation for the unpaid work predominantly done by women in our society, such as childcare.
4) We need more people to study the wage gap. When was the last time you heard of someone who double-majored in gender studies and economics, for instance.
5) We need more female entrepreneurs! That’s part of the reason I’m building Palapod because women need to know they can build something, and not simply within the tech bubble either — it’s a whole society movement. The other reason it’s great to have female entrepreneurs is that female entrepreneurs are also female bosses, and female bosses sure aren’t going to pay women less.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I think one of the most important things for the wellbeing of humanity is the protection of our environment and the creatures that inhabit it. As we speak today, the Amazon is burning, and creatures are dying by the thousands. We need to do something about this before it’s too late.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The great Way is easy, yet people prefer the side paths.” -Laozi
To many people are stuck on small, petty things because they feel big ideas are too complicated, but actually some of the biggest ideas have some of the most elegant and simple solutions if people are willing to pay attention.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I’d like to meet up with Elon Musk someday because he’s a visionary like me and I think we’d connect. He wants to change society by sending humanity to Mars and other big ideas, and what I’m trying to due is create more Elon Musks in the world via my entrepreneurial innovations. I also admire how he pushes himself and drives forward past doubters to do something truly great.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.