Launched in 2018, the Equality Impact Awards honor the contributions and leadership of women and allies that are changing historically, and often notoriously, unequal industries.
The awards are given to both women and allies in tech, retail and publishing who are breaking glass ceilings, fighting for equal pay, championing diversity and inclusion and ensuring that the workplace is better for themselves and those who come after them.
Today, we honor one of our 2019 winners, Shan-Lyn Ma, CEO & founder of Zola. Shan-Lyn answered 5 questions about the state of equality in the industry. Take a look!
1. If you could tell 16-year-old you one thing, what would it be?
I would say don’t doubt yourself. Entrepreneurs, especially female entrepreneurs, tend to tell themselves they are not fully qualified, but the reality is, almost every entrepreneur is doing something they’ve never done for the first time. As a young entrepreneur I didn’t have many female founders to look up to. I sometimes doubted myself, but I’m proof that there are no barriers except for the ones you artificially put on yourself.
2. What was your dream job when you were just starting your career? How has that dream evolved?
I’ve actually always wanted to be an entrepreneur. When I was little most kids had posters of movie stars hanging up on their walls but I was obsessed with Jerry Yang, the founder of Yahoo! and had a picture of him on my wall. After building my career at some of the companies I had always admired like Yahoo! and Gilt Groupe, I felt like I was ready to become an entrepreneur and that’s when we started Zola in 2013.
3. What does gender equality mean to you?
To me, gender equality means equal opportunity. When we started Zola in 2013 I was the only woman to raise a Series A round in New York City. Today the number of female entrepreneurs and investors has grown exponentially. There are more opportunities than ever before which has led to the start of some amazing female founded companies like Lola and Billie.
4. Who is one person in your industry who has inspired you in your fight for equality? How have they done so?
Someone who has really inspired me in my career is Susan Lyne. I worked closely with her in my time at Gilt Groupe where she was the CEO and then Chairman. As a leader she never shied away from asking hard questions, she always supported and encouraged us and led by example. One of the most inspiring things about her is her dedication to being a kick-ass CEO as well as a loving mother.
5. What’s one concrete next step that others can take to promote equality (of any sort) in the workplace?
If you are interviewing candidates for a role, and don’t have a diverse group of candidates being interviewed, ask yourself why? And then work to fix it.