Celebrating International Women's Day with Saqi Sheikh

Celebrating International Women's Day with Saqi Sheikh

Published March 7, 2024

3 minute read

Join us in celebrating International Women's Day with our very own Chief of Human Resources Officer (CHRO), Saqi Sheikh. We got the opportunity to speak with Saqi about her background and professional career, as well as how organisations can take concrete steps to "Inspire Inclusion", this year's International Women's Day theme. 

Tell us about your background and any childhood memories that have shaped who you are today.

Growing up as the eldest of four daughters in a Western world, I was fortunate to have a father who instilled in me the belief that I could achieve anything I set my mind to. His constant encouragement, like the pre-exam ritual of looking in the mirror and declaring "You can do this!", became my grounding force. These early experiences, coupled with the challenges of being an ethnic female, shaped me into a resilient individual who wouldn't let anyone dim my light. 

My childhood dream was "working in the city (London) with a filofax and a briefcase, wearing a big shoulder pad suit" – a true 1990s vision! – ignited a fire within me. This determination to "get to the top" fueled my career choices. Early on, I meticulously observed leadership styles, consciously choosing who I wanted to emulate and who I wouldn't. My journey through telecoms, tech, big data, fintech, and SaaS presented me with incredible opportunities to work in dynamic, fast-paced industries, allowing my career to blossom alongside them. 

Hard work, unwavering determination, and fostering meaningful relationships have been the cornerstones of my growth. Traveling the world opened my eyes to the richness of different cultures and perspectives, highlighting the importance of collaboration and inclusivity in achieving success and fostering innovation. My rock-solid support system, comprised of my loving husband and children, has been instrumental in allowing me to navigate the challenges and celebrate the triumphs along the way. 

Reflecting on your experience, what are some of the biggest challenges women face globally? How can we, as individuals support women with any obstacles? 

Having witnessed firsthand the challenges women face globally, from limited leadership opportunities to even being ignored in meetings, I believe mentorship and coaching are crucial. By empowering women to be strong, resilient, and vocal advocates for themselves, we can bridge the gap and create a more inclusive future. 

As a female executive, how do you mentor and encourage other women, particularly those early in their careers, to thrive in their chosen fields? 

When mentoring young women, I emphasize the power of self-belief and honing their strengths. I encourage them to actively voice their ideas and build genuine connections with colleagues, both male and female. Authenticity and humility are key, and I remind them that even men experience self-doubt – fostering collaboration and mutual support benefits everyone. 

Individuals working around a wooden table

In your experience, what are some effective strategies to challenge unconscious bias and create a more inclusive environment? 

From my experience, the most effective ways to challenge unconscious bias and foster inclusivity are through demonstrative action – showcasing your abilities, achieving goals, and speaking up. Additionally, open communication is key. By questioning biased behavior and fostering acceptance of others, we can create a more equitable environment for everyone. 

As a woman on the executive leadership team at EcoOnline, I feel incredibly supported and valued. There's a genuine interest in growing women's careers, which resonates strongly with my own passion for igniting empowerment for women. I'm excited to be a part of this journey, actively working to create a workplace where all individuals feel respected, included, and empowered to contribute their unique talents and perspectives – this is just the beginning! 

As we celebrate International Women's Day, what message of hope and encouragement would you offer to girls and women around the world? 

My message to girls and women around the world is this: pursue your passions with purpose. Don't seek validation from others; own your journey and become a master of your craft. Find what ignites your spark and dedicate yourself to excellence, for yourself and those you love. 

What are some experiences you've had that shaped your commitment to inclusion and gender equality? 

My diverse encounters with people from all walks of life have profoundly shaped my commitment to inclusion and gender equality. Witnessing the richness of various cultures and backgrounds has opened my eyes to the immense potential of embracing different perspectives and experiences. These understandings fuel my belief that fostering inclusivity is not just the right thing to do but also a strategic advantage that can spark groundbreaking innovation and unlock a wealth of unique ideas. 

Three women sitting on a couch looking at papers

What concrete steps can individuals and organizations take to make "Inspire Inclusion" more than just a theme for International Women's Day, but a reality every day? 

To truly bridge the gap between equity and inclusion, systemic change is crucial. This begins by demonstrating equal opportunities throughout the educational pipeline and into the workforce. We must also actively dismantle societal barriers that discourage girls from pursuing STEM fields, where their talents are invaluable. Additionally, building strong mentorship programs can empower and equip young women with the confidence and skills they need to thrive in their chosen paths.

However, creating this lasting reality requires more than just theoretical ideas. It takes concrete action and a commitment to fostering inclusive environments. This is why I'm incredibly proud to work at EcoOnline, a global tech company that actively champions women's advancement. Seeing a diverse group of women excelling in various positions – from product development and design to strategy and beyond – is incredibly inspiring. It showcases the potential for true equity and inclusion when opportunities are equal and diverse perspectives are valued. By fostering such an environment, EcoOnline serves as a powerful example of how companies can contribute to lasting systemic change.

We're honored to have Saqi Shiekh as part of the EcoOnline team, bringing her expertise in people's management, leadership, and growth to the individuals of our organisation. 

Author Saqi Sheikh

Saqi Sheikh is the Chief Human Resources Officer at EcoOnline. With an impressive history of success in the tech and SaaS space, Saqi brings her expertise in people leadership and management to EcoOnline.

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