I recently started working for a technology startup in London called Stowga – that is revolutionizing logistics by digitizing the process of finding, booking and managing warehousing space. On International Women’s Day and as the only woman (at present) on a team of 8 men, I wanted to share my experience to date. I am not new to working in a predominantly male environment. After 3 years in Silicon Valley, I was acutely aware of the challenges. Having one’s voice heard, dealing with inequality and working ‘twice’ as hard for lower pay.
You may be wondering what it must be like to work with a predominately male team, and the logistics sector as a whole? During a very short passage of time, Stowga has come to feel like ‘home’. The meritocratic, transparent culture means that every day I am learning something new. My team members are respectful, accommodating and generous in assisting me with the tasks at hand or how to best understand the logistics sector – something I am new to. I enjoy working with my colleagues to promote a diversity of opinion, thought and leadership in the company, address equality, and in the process, address the challenges of recruiting women to logistics roles, and the Stowga team in general.
When I decided to pursue startup ventures in London I was not optimistic. The transition from sunny San Francisco to the UK was difficult - I was quick to judge and unimpressed by the pace which the startups operated at in London. Stowga was different. Some things, however, remain the same whether I reside across the Atlantic, or in the UK – the hipsters, the beards, the tight jeans and overpriced coffee with coconut / almond milk.
Stowga is different. I am part of a team where I can help to shape the culture of the company, as it grows. As well as following the rules, I am in a privileged position to ‘write’ them. The ‘flat’ structure of the company allows me to excel both in my professional and personal pursuits. Stowga was the challenge I had been seeking, and to my surprise proved to be a ‘breath of fresh air’. I like to be proved wrong! The constant exchange of gifs and Game of Thrones analogies keep me entertained – “a girl has no name”. However, compared to my kin around the world, I find myself privileged and grateful. I have lived and worked in some amazing places - Singapore, Dubai, and San Francisco. I speak 5 languages fluently, and I am working with a great team to build something amazing.
Many will celebrate and embrace this day. Some will not come to know the importance today holds, due to the different parts of the world in which we reside. We all have different destinations, and our journeys are as unique as they are multi-faceted - that’s our superpower, and it’s one we do not acknowledge as often as we should. We are professional, working women, mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, girlfriends, friends and confidants. It gives me great pride to represent my company Stowga – and help celebrate International Women’s day today with 8 men who appreciate my value to the company, as a friend and colleague.
To conclude my short story, I call out to all the women of the world - young, old, those who have made mistakes, failed, healing from tragedy / heartbreak, those who are building and working hard to give themselves a better life- I salute you! Embrace it and own it! To all the women who are privileged to have been born and raised in a democratic society, who can share their voice freely and without fear of persecution, let us give thanks for that privilege, and to all those women without that right who we will never hear about, lets keep them in our thoughts and push for them, to have what we enjoy.
We may have grown up in different parts of the world, but there are many elements that connect us – we are hustling, grinding everyday with our brains, our beauty, our superpowers – on a mission to be the best versions of ourselves.
Women in tech - Sameena Ashraf from Stowga among other women at TechHub London on Google Campus