Train younger women entering the professional job market on how to have a powerful discussion about wage expectations that are purely based on experience and value they can add to a company.
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 Andrea Loubier. Andrea has been recognized as one of the thought leaders and top female entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia. As CEO of Mailbird, Andrea takes inspiration from many other leading female tech entrepreneurs in changing the mindset and way we conduct personal and business communication through email today. With Andrea as the muscle behind pushing Mailbird into the forefront of tech companies in the world, Mailbird has been nominated by PC World as one of the best productivity tools for the business person, IT World named Mailbird the best email client for Windows, and Microsoft even nominated Mailbird as Startup of the Day. Andrea is a contributor to Forbes and The Asian Entrepreneur. She’s been featured and interviewed on Bloomberg TV and BBC. Andrea’s backbone comes from her experience in building strategic relationships, conceptual selling skills, multiple project and people management, cross team communication and coordination, leadership, project bidding and billing, and client correspondence with top international corporate enterprises that include Proctor and Gamble, KAO Brands and Ubisoft, among many other highly reputable brands. As the CEO of Mailbird, dedicated to building a great company and finding opportunities in business for her team to develop a healthy relationship with email for the world.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” that brought you to this career path?
In all of my jobs after college, I always used Outlook and was frustrated with it. My more recent role before starting Mailbird was working at a software company and myself and my colleagues were always plagued by the stresses of email management at work and even at home with our personal accounts. At this software company the business was growing fast and the team culture and vibe was awesome. I decided that I wanted to build my own company and I wanted to do it from Southeast Asia, where I saw the technology market booming. In my search, I was introduced through a mutual friend to my co-founders. I would work full time 8:30am — 5:00pm at the software company in Ohio, then go home and work on Mailbird until 2:00am. Eventually, my soon to be co-founders and partners in crime at Mailbird finally met in person in exotic Bali, Indonesia. I quit my job, and pursued my venture into entrepreneurship full on at this point and today we are a market leader in the email industry with a fully remote, distributed team of brilliant people. We work together to create a healthy relationship with email and online communication with technology.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
I was invited to be on a startup reality show. I expected that starting a tech company would be tough, that I would have to prove myself constantly, that I would learn so much about leadership and the dynamics of team work, how to be a fixer and an opportunity seeker. All of that happened and continues to happen, but I never thought that I’d be asked to be part of a network reality show about tech startup founders, doing different challenges like on The Apprentice or like Shark Tank, only the SEA version. The best outcome of it was learning how to present Mailbird to all different types of people and we even raised the most during a crowdfunding challenge. It was a good experience, especially when you are forced to be very public in representing your company, but now I’m more into diggin deep into the data with my team and focusing on measurable initiatives that stimulate high demand and growth for Mailbird. We want to share the power of balance in creating a healthy relationship with email — for both individuals and teams.
Can you share a story about the funniest or most interesting mistake you made when you were first starting?
Ha! Yes, we decided it would be great to get Mailbird out to the Chinese market. All of our marketing collateral to launch in China was in English and with language and images of people that were not representative of the Chinese market.
Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
For many companies, China is a massive market opportunity. The only thing to consider is that you should build your business from the beginning, with focus on that market. Either that or you need to have a team on the ground that knows the right way to market or bring your product or service to that market. We didn’t take the time to do thorough research on market channel development. Retrospectively, I would have taken a few more months to plan, learn and build a local team in China to do the marketing and outreach to launch in that region. True localization in restrictive markets can be a big challenge, and requires a little more investment than we ever anticipated. Today we have Chinese users, but most of our users come from the U.S., other English speaking countries and Europe. One day we may take on the challenge again to bring Mailbird to China, if the market demand is there and it makes sense.
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?
There are a number of reasons, not just three, as to why this is still the case where women in the same roles and positions earn less than men. For one, we are still culturally around the world, in very different perspectives when it comes to equality in the wage gap for men and women. Even in progressive countries, we are still crawling out of this scenario given the “typical” societal system that has been put in place with specific roles of individuals in that system that we call family.
So we are still changing the norm for the wage benchmark for men and women, there are cultural and political implications involved in this and of course the story telling and empowerment of women to feel confident asking for the wage they deserve or starting their own business so that they call the shots on their value and worth when it comes to wages. I believe regardless of gender, you have to earn it on an even playing field.
The way in which we treat and approach women in business should remove gender from the equation and focus on progression, growth, ability and solutions that reshape the culture of gender, expectations and wages for the 21st century worker and future generations that are solving the problems of the future. A great panel discussion is to “put yourself in my shoes”. If you as a man had the exact same job as me, but knew you were making less money, how does that make you feel about your worth in society and in the job market? Do you feel this would be fair? Change the way we approach the discussion of wages and gender, focus on the stories of many women that have worked very hard to get to a position in society of prestige, success, respect and leadership. Make these remarkable stories the norm in leadership discussions, so that one day we can change that conversation, where gender is no longer on the table.
Can you share with our readers what your work is doing to help close the gender wage gap?
Well as a CEO of Mailbird, a tech company with a multicultural background and upbringing, I do my part by sharing my story. I’m not going to sit here and tell everyone that it’s hard (because we all know it is tough to start a business), but instead talk about the people, men and women, who are change makers. Talk about what it takes to build a successful career, company, life and support network — mind you that success has a very different definition across the world.
Not only are there challenges that come with being a female tech entrepreneur, but there are also many opportunities here. I like to talk about those opportunities, but also calling out the instances or experiences of women in these executive roles that have been unjust on the topic of the gender wage gap. I think it’s important in society to be vulnerable, in order to enable the rest of the world to feel safe and supported in their journey when it comes to work and the gender gap. Sharing my story, being an example of progress, being vulnerable and transparent is what I am doing to help close the gender wage gap.
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.
- Tell and share stories of women that are kicking ass in the world, making a difference and are a great example for the younger generation where gender is no longer the unfair advantage.
- Educate people about the gender wage gap, especially executives who are responsible for wages.
- Encourage more women to pursue leadership or executive roles, the more examples we have, the less we will find that there is a significant gap in wages between men and women.
- Creating safe support networks for women that promotes inclusion and discussion in work environments.
- Training younger women entering the professional job market on how to have a powerful discussion about wage expectations that are purely based on experience and value they can add to a company.
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. :-)
Recognition of how powerful women are in their abilities to nurture, influence, lead and juggle more life challenges than our male counterparts. In my case, I have managed many things in life based on the cards I’ve been dealt. In my life I will juggle being a full time CEO of a tech company, full time attention and management of my health as a diabetic, nurturing my support network of friends, family, colleagues and loved ones, being a mother, being a leader and being strong through tough times and adversities that are part of being a woman in this world today.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.” — Kofi Annan, I really believe in this. I can see already the progression since I pursued the venture of starting Mailbird in the tech industry, and it is very evident that companies are seeing the benefits of hiring the right women with the confidence and bravery to lead in remaking the future of work that is fair and inclusive for both men and women. This world is not made of one gender or culture, it is made up of many. So we must think of how we can be sure that ideas and discussions include full gender and cultural diversity. This is how we will build a better world.
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. :-)
There are many great influencers and leaders in this world who are doing amazing things for our future. I would love to sit down with Larry Page or Sergey Brin — both men who’ve led a massive team of people around the world in changing our lives with accessibility to information. They made the internet work for us. As men leading the Google empire, I’d like to know what their perspective, journey and lessons have been with the concept of the gender wage gap and what they’ve done to address these issues in building the Google teams across the globe. Outside of the gender discussion, I what they believe have been the biggest challenges in their lives.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.