Ep. 48: Megan Reilly Cayten Helps Women And Girls Gain Control Over Their Lives With Catrinka

"Women do two-thirds or three-quarters of the work worldwide and earn less than 10% of the income. It's extraordinary. We don't own the businesses, we don't own the land, we don't make the money anywhere at all comparable to the work we do."

Megan Reilly Cayten is the founder of Catrinka, an ethical fashion and accessories brand with a mission to both empower women financially and educate girls. She personally works with skilled female artisans in India and Mexico, who reinvest the income they earn in their children and communities. Proceeds also fund the education of indigenous Mayan girls in Guatemala. Megan shares her career path of working in infrastructure finance, her experiences of being the first woman to hold many different positions and being the only woman in the room, and her tips for finding what brings you energy and happiness.

"The reason why we invest in women and girls is not because we don't like men, obviously, but it's because women re-invest twice as much of their income in their families and communities as men do. So when you invest in women, they invest in the next generation and that helps to break the cycle of poverty."

We discuss how Catrinka works to empower women at every step of the process, why they invest in women and girls, the importance of mentoring in trying to change a society, how the dynamic between men and women changes when women start to take money, taking the leap from finance to entrepreneurship, how she finds balance between her life and her work, working in a male-dominated field prior to founding Catrinka, having to be better than men to earn their respect, the assumption working women face that they aren't the primary breadwinner, how her extensive solo travels have shaped her life, career lessons she's learned along the way,

"Figure out where you get your energy from. It can be people, situations, a particular mission, a particular work, a place. That's definitely something I've seen with myself, that I just feel more alive in some places and some situations and doing some kinds of work than others, and to me that's what it's all about. It means that I'm obviously benefiting from it but hopefully I'm also contributing something more when I'm in that kind of flow."

What you'll learn:

  • Megan is the founder and CEO of Catrinka
  • Catrinka is an ethical fashion and accessories brand.
  • This brand is focused on financial empowerment of women and girls
  • Megan aims to empower women and girls financially through the products they make.
  • These products are sold online, at pop ups and through ambassadors.
  • Megan is able to measure the impact of the products through how many hours work and hours education have been supplied for the women and girls.
  • So far Catrinka has raised 55,000 days in education and 5000 days of work for women and girls in 16 countries.
  • The brand started by working with the Girl Rising documentary and supporting that fund through sales.
  • A child born to a woman who can read has a 50% less chance of dying before the age of 5.
  • Megan wanted to invest in women specifically because they invest back into their family which helps break the cycle of poverty.
  • By investing in girls in indigenous groups Megan can help delay early marriage so that these girls can make decisions about their own lives.
  • Megan previously worked in emerging markets, finance and investment.
  • Mega speaks 4 languages and has lived across the world while working with emerging markets.
  • When she had her first child she moved to the US and set up Catrinka so that she could still work with emerging markets but also see her family.
  • Megan was the first woman cox on the Yale men's rowing team.
  • She has also been the first women into each role she's had through her corporate career.
  • The Catrinka ambassador programme is a way for women to earn money and also invest in other women. 
  • These ambassadors can connect with the artisans, the products and other ambassadors while making money.

"I measure success by impacting the most people in the most positive way, which has two pieces: doing something useful and doing it at scale."

Advice:

  • Figure out where you get your energy from; this could be a place, a person, work or your mission.
  • Understand yourself through travelling alone.
  • Strip all the distractions back to understand who you really are and what you actually enjoy.
  • Travel as a way to connect with yourself.
  • During salary negotiations call yourself the breadwinner, even if you're not.
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