For promoting education among Asian American women and other accomplishments, Wendy Cai recently became the youngest recipient of the United Nations Population Fund Award for the Health and Dignity of Women.
Cai is one of three American women this year to receive this award from the UNFPA, an international development agency which promotes equal rights for women around the world. Each recipient is honored for making key strides to improve the lives of other women either through their leadership roles in business initiatives, philanthropic endeavors or political action.
Cai, 33, is a high-level executive at one of the world’s leading investment companies, Deloitte and Touche USA LLP. In addition to advising American and Chinese companies to invest in each other, she is investing in the future of young Asian American women. Cai is generating funds for scholarships as a board member of Asian Women in Business, and is currently raising $200,000 in scholarship money.
“There are perceptions and challenges out there about Asian women. So we created scholarships for women of Asian decent who are enrolled in accredited, four-year colleges,” says Cai, explaining that Asian American women are viewed as quiet and not aggressive about building their education and career. As a result “they are not as active in extra curricular activities, so it is difficult for them to access the right scholarships, in particular to get to the good schools.”
Through her own pocket, and fundraising galas, the Rutgers graduate says she will reach her goal. Each scholarship candidate must exhibit top grades but also hold a leadership role in a community or nonprofit organization, started their own business or as Cai says, shown “a proven record of entrepreneurial achievement.”
“I personally believe that education and financial independence is extremely important,” Cai says, explaining women outside of the United States deserve help, too.
As China’s economy continues to grow, opportunities for the poor are increasing, and Cai says she can step in and make a difference.
“That’s why I’ve been working on micro-lending programs in China. Many organizations have done such a great job setting up these programs in other countries, getting these women out of the situations they are in.”
So it is fitting that Cai is recognized by the UNFPA for her efforts in bridging commerce between China and the United States, and at the same time providing mentorship and assistance to Asian American women.
“Educating our future generation and empowering the young girls in this country is going to make a huge difference,” Cai says, adding that women anywhere benefit from being financially independent. “If women can be economically empowered, they are more likely to make choices for themselves, rather than be led by others.”
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