“5 Things We Need To Do To Close The Gender Wage Gap”, with Bianca Caban of Republic
Maternity leave inequality. After men have a baby, their salaries typically go up while women’s go down. In fact, fathers’ salaries increase by 6% after a baby, on average, while a mother’s salaries decreases by 4%. If men are mandated to take paternity leave and salaries remain equal upon return, it helps alleviate the wage gap since women don’t have to carry full burden of being out of workforce.
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 Bianca Caban. Bianca is Managing Director, Partnerships at Republic / CEO of SheWorx. Her previous experience includes banking and investment at Credit Suisse, Blackrock, and Atlas Merchant Capital. She co-founded Taino Capital, AccessLatina and earned her bachelor’s degree at Harvard and MBA at Columbia.
Thank you so much for joining us, Bianca! Can you tell us the “backstory” that brought you to this career path?
I was born and raised in the Bronx, NY and I’m of Puerto Rican descent. My mom is a nurse and my dad is a civil rights attorney, and my family’s aspiration for proving ourselves and building a stable financial future peeks through in my own career track. I started working on Wall Street at firms including Credit Suisse and BlackRock, and eventually at a newly launched merchant bank called Atlas Merchant Capital. That’s where I got exposure to doing business in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. What struck me then was how countries like Rwanda and other fast growing economies in Africa were making large investments in technology, young entrepreneurs, and especially women to grow their economies. I felt called to double down on this trend so I started my first business, a consultancy called Taino Capital, where I worked with clients, including several gender-lens venture funds, on fund formation and strategy. In this work, I learned about the funding gap for female founders and other underrepresented groups in venture capital, even though data shows that diverse teams create more value for investors. This is when I decided that a career in tech and venture would allow me to change this, and to build my own vision for the future. I wanted to bring the access and resources I was privileged to have to other women who’d want to build the future, too.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
When doing business in Africa during my time on Wall Street, I met Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda. He explained to my colleagues and me what he was doing to revitalize his country from a civil war, just twenty years earlier. What stuck with me was how President Kagame leveraged one of the most valuable resources he had — women — in all facets of society to revitalize in his country. Rwanda has the highest percentage of women in Parliament in the world. This was the inspiration for me to launch a nonprofit business accelerator for women-owned businesses in Puerto Rico, where my grandparents are from, called AccessLatina.
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 remember when I was just starting out on Wall Street, I didn’t even know how to format Excel documents. A colleague scolded me for not formatting Excel documents before sending them to clients, but I didn’t even know how! Before business school, I hadn’t received basic business training that my colleagues had. It was a learning curve but taught me that we don’t have to have everything figured out; so much is learned on-the-job.
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?
- Maternity leave inequality. After men have a baby, their salaries typically go up while women’s go down. In fact, fathers’ salaries increase by 6% after a baby, on average, while a mother’s salaries decreases by 4%. If men are mandated to take paternity leave and salaries remain equal upon return, it helps alleviate the wage gap since women don’t have to carry full burden of being out of workforce.
- A lack of transparency. Compensation committees should be created, whose job it is to review compensation across an organization in an effort toward transparency. Reporting and regular assessment will indicate what needs work. While it may be radical to ask companies to publicly disclose salaries, regular review structures help to understand results and have a basis from which to improve. We saw that with our own company’s diversity numbers, in fact. For example, we didn’t know how much of our capital went to female founders until we made a concerted effort to start tracking it so we can hold ourselves accountable. I’m pleased to report that 40% of all investments on Republic go toward female founded startups.
- A lack of mentorship and education for women early in their careers is also causing the wage gap. The pay gap starts early on and can be traced back to women’s first jobs — men negotiate the first job and women don’t. Women should seek out mentorship around negotiating strategies since they are not negotiating salaries from the beginning, which compounds over the years. We need to better equip women at an early age (college-level) with the knowledge and tools for effective negotiation.
Can you share with our readers what your work is doing to help close the gender wage gap?
At SheWorx, it is our mission to create opportunities for all female founders. Research shows that woman-owned businesses are growing 2X faster on average than all businesses nationwide, greatly contributing to economic growth. Our work at SheWorx is directly fostering that growth. The more female business leaders realize their full potential, the more they’ll pay themselves and their employees an equal wage, helping to eliminate the wage gap. We are committed to growing the community of female founders around the world.
I’m pleased to report that 40% of all investments on Republic go toward female founded startups. A few ways we offer support is through our breakfasts with leading venture capitalists and founders, summits and the SheWorx Equity Crowdfunding Challenge to fund underrepresented founders and give the women of SheWorx an opportunity to get full on support and guidance to launch their equity crowdfunding campaign. While women receive less than 2.2% of VC funding, women actually outperform men by 30% in crowdfunding, which is why we launched the challenge. Winners will be announced this fall.
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.
- More women-owned businesses reaching their full economic potential will create more female business leaders who pay themselves and their employees an equal wage. Already, research shows that woman-owned businesses are growing 2X faster on average than all businesses nationwide.
- More recognition of women for the work they’re doing. For example, this year’s Forbes 100 Innovators list profiled only one woman out of 100 innovators, prompting the editor to admit a miss. Women deserve equal recognition for equal work.
- More positive and body positive images of women in business. Audrey Gelman, the CEO and cofounder of The Wing, was the first visibly pregnant CEO to appear on the cover of a business magazine. She decided to appear visibly pregnant to show other women that they too can simultaneously run a business and start a family. These images of women are incredibly important to destigmatize and empower women who choose to have children while maintaining a career.
- More transparency about compensation. While this may be a drastic example, Seattle-based ice cream chain Molly Moon’s announced wage transparency this past Equal Pay Day. If companies don’t want to go as public with wages, they should at least establish internal compensation committees to regularly review compensation to ensure equality.
- Men need to take paternity leave. To level the playing field, if men take the same leave that women do, women won’t feel “behind” when returning to work and equality will remain. Data shows that after the birth of each child, when women leave the workplace, they see their earnings drop by 4% while new fathers receive a 6% bump or greater. By mandating that new dads take paid leave when they have children could not only help to destigmatize the act of doing so for both men and women, but also, it can go a long way in reducing the gender pay gap by relieving women of the full burden of childcare and from having to take the full time away from work.
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 would make sure that investment crowdfunding was so easy and ubiquitous such that every day people could have a chance at backing everything from their favorite small business in their neighborhood, to the future Facebook. This would be great both for local economies and job creation as well as for wealth creation for anyone, regardless of their net worth or current socioeconomic background.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A college professor once told me, “[As it relates to your career] Don’t worry about two years from now or 5 years from now, just focus on what your best next move is.” This was such an important piece of advice for me early on when I was trying to proactively manage my career and figure out what my ultimate career goal even was. If it wasn’t for this advice I wouldn’t have delved into focusing on my own entrepreneurial endeavors after working on Wall Street with an emphasis on economic development in Puerto Rico. Even though it seems random, it was this exact work that led me to my current role at Republic. When I was building my business a client of mine was Kamal Ravikant, whose brother started AngelList, which Republic spun out of in 2016. This taught me to employ a combination of a rational evaluation of the pros and cons of a business opportunity as well as trusting your gut, and most importantly, not to worry about how it fits into your 5-year plan when evaluating where to take your career next.
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. :-)
Serena Williams, because not only is she the greatest athlete of all time, but she’s been able to accomplish this while also diving into motherhood — add to this a pregnancy with scary complications. She’s also diving into VC investing and I’d love to learn what companies and industry trends she’s excited about.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.