Securing a Seat at the Table

Christina Gama
Christina Gama
March 23, 2023 • 11 minutes

For women, professional advancement is rife with double standards, biases, and antiquated societal norms. By fostering an inclusive, welcoming, and equitable workplace culture, each of us can help break down the barriers that women face at work.

At Glovo, we aim to ensure that working at Glovo is for everyone. This can only happen if we take a hard look at ourselves and have a clear understanding of what different people need to learn, grow, contribute, and thrive. By doing this, we can create environments, systems and processes and products that work for everyone, and not just for some.

As a part of our continued celebration of Women’s History Month, we sat down with 3 Glovo leaders in 3 different countries to hear about their experiences as women leaders and how the unique social landscapes of their countries as well as their experiences with Glovo have shaped their career path. 

Pictured from left to right: Aigerim Saktaganova, Bojana Radovic, Maryna Pavliuk

What is your role at Glovo? Could you describe your leadership style? Would you say you lead  it differently  from your male counterparts/peers? 

Aigerim: I am the Head of Operations in Kazakhstan. I would characterize my style of leadership as leading by example and setting high standards for myself and those I work with. I am fair in my interactions with others and strive to treat everyone with respect and consideration. 

At the same time, I am results-driven and have a sense of urgency to achieve goals. I’m not afraid to push the team outside of their comfort zones to reach their full potential and deliver the best results possible. I also value honest conversations between my team which I try to listen to. Listen to not only what is said but what hasn’t been said aloud. 

I don’t believe my style differs from my male peers (neither in the Leadership Team of Kazakhstan nor in the Operations Department). However, in the end, the success of the leadership will depend on the capacity to establish trust, communicate clearly and efficiently, and encourage and motivate your team to work together towards achieving common objectives. I truly believe that at Glovo, leaders are chosen wisely and verified fast in a challenging environment. 

Bojana: For the past 20 months, I’ve been leading Glovo’s development in Montenegro as a General Manager. 

I believe different people and different circumstances require different approaches so I try to be agile and adapt the technique to each person or situation. However, as a general rule, I am more of a “follow me” person in the sense that I share the bigger picture with the team, to the greatest extent possible, in order to be sure they understand how each of them and their actions impact the organization and business as a whole. 

I’ve seen with time that sharing compelling stories about where we are, should, and could be as a company is a great way to motivate and inspire confidence in people, and more often than not, it proved to increase engagement and level of ownership on the team. 

Maryna: I am a General Manager of one of the biggest countries in the Glovo ecosystem, a country that stands for 230 employees, has the most successful MFCs and Food Innovation businesses at Glovo, and a country with a lot of challenges and a full scale war – Ukraine. 

I’m also a wife and mom to an 11 month old baby boy.

Personally, I do not believe that leadership in terms of the instruments used and methodology as a whole differs between men and women; however, social responsibilities given to women impacts the tactics and ways of working for sure. 

I know that neither of my positions (as GM and mom) are part time, so I always need to keep in mind how to succeed in both. It is not an easy job and sometimes requires extra hours taken from a night’s sleep. 

When it comes to the role of a leader, I choose to lead by example and to challenge a team within the topics with the status-quo, to give more freedom and to concentrate on the areas with the highest impact. I tend to be straight-forward and transparent in every discussion. 

Do you think ‘female leadership’ exists? What characteristics would you relate to it?

Aigerim: When discussing “female leadership,” I would agree that certain characteristics tend to be associated with effective female leaders. Collaboration, for example, is a key trait that allows women to bring diverse perspectives and ideas to the table. Flexibility is another important attribute, as female leaders often have to balance multiple roles and responsibilities in both their personal and professional lives. And lastly, empathy is critical for building strong relationships and fostering a positive team culture, allowing female leaders to understand and support the needs of their team members. 

Bojana: My experience working with both female and male leaders, led me to notice that several things distinguish women leaders from men, and it’s that women: 

  • tend to be more inspirational and inclusive
  • think deeply and dedicate a bit more energy to people development
  • don’t hesitate to show empathy. 

I won’t dare say women have more empathy, it may not be fair to some percentage of male leaders I believe, but I’ve definitely felt women speak and show certain things more openly and easily than men. 

Maryna: I support this idea only from the point of view of extra social responsibilities given to women. And honestly, this interview made me do a small research on the topic. According to the American Psychological Association women tend to have a more cooperative, participatory style of leading. Men tend to have a more “command and control style”. 

That being said, I know many examples of female leaders that are more tough and straight-forward than their male colleagues. And the same for me: some situations require being tough or commanding.

In your opinion, what factors impact a woman’s ability to lead others?

Aigerim: One of the most crucial qualities of a leader, regardless of gender, is their ability to prioritize the well-being of their team and the company as a whole. 

Creating a positive and supportive work environment that enables each team member to reach their full potential is crucial for effective leadership.

Based on my personal experience as a woman leader, I have found that an empathetic approach to leadership is crucial for my team’s success. 

According to the Athena Doctrine, empathy is typically seen as a feminine trait, but I believe caring about other people unlocks team wellness in general (not only for women). 

In your culture, do you think being a woman leader is still stigmatized ? Do you feel you need to prove yourself more than your male peers? 

Bojana: I think that proving ourselves more than our male peers is a universal truth for the majority, if not for all women. While it is unfortunate, I think this Imposter Syndrome we carry pushes us to reach some things and heights that normally would not be requested of us, whether in the workplace or at home. 

The fact that we’re harder on ourselves pushes us to constantly live outside of our comfort zone, hence causing women to overachieve which is ultimately better for work and society. 

Maryna: According to the 2021 The Global Gender Gap Report, Ukraine sits on 81th position in the rating. There are many factors in a woman’s professional life that make it difficult for her career growth. These are breaks during the birth of children and a family structure where women are burdened with household chores. Of course all that influences the number of women in leadership roles. 

Throughout the past decade, Ukraine has made a huge progress however in comparison to other countries like Lithuania (rated 11th in the same study) and Canada (8th), there is a long way to go and to break up stereotypes. 

What are the benefits to having other women in leadership?

Aigerim: Women are valuable contributors to any team, bringing with them unique viewpoints and diverse life experiences. By ensuring that women are represented at all levels of an organization, we can create a more balanced and inclusive structure that benefits everyone. By working together, sharing our strengths and learning from each other’s experiences, we can achieve greater success and make a positive impact.

Did you have any male mentors or sponsors who helped you get to where you are? Best advice you got? Who is cheering for you? 

Aigerim: During my professional journey across different organizations, I was fortunate to have had guidance from several mentors. Among them, the one who had a profound influence on me and provided me with unwavering support was Juan Ornia, my mentor from the LeaderSHE Program

I value Juan’s impact on me immensely, as he not only mentored me but also imparted crucial skills to tackle challenges in my career path. What stood out for me was that Juan recognized my strengths and potential, which I was struggling to acknowledge, especially during tough times. His encouragement and belief in me made a significant difference in my career progression and has had a lasting impact on me. I appreciate his unwavering support and encouragement. Juan’s mentorship has helped me to build confidence in my abilities and to approach challenges with a positive mindset. 

Bojana: Actually all mentors I worked with, and now, are male. It is not intentional. 🙂

Best advice- Choose your battles (on effectiveness, energy, time management).  There are so many sharks out there, you need to let people know what you want. Anything is possible (on doing self promo).

How can women navigate power structures?

Bojana: I want to say – the same as anyone who wants to navigate power structures. 

Know your organization. Build true relationships. Learn to listen, to communicate, to understand. Do your best work every time, and be honest. The good ones always win in the long run. 

How do you encourage women to keep going?

Aigerim: As a piece of advice for other women who are navigating their paths, I can share the strategies that have helped me to persevere. Firstly, it is essential to disregard the noise and opinions of others, including those closest to you. Trust your inner voice, as it will always be the most authentic and honest reflection of yourself.

Secondly, invest in building a supportive network system of individuals who encourage and uplift you.

Then, invest time in understanding your strengths, as this is an ongoing process that can lead to discovering your unique superpower. Your superpower can then become a tremendous gift that sets you apart and propels you forward.

Bojana: By sharing my story which is one of hard work, big doubts, overcoming those doubts, and learning to be more self confident.

I believe that society needs to empower girls from a very young age and instill in them the idea that they’re just as capable of being leaders as men. Only then will we have no problem with having more women leaders.

Maryna: I lead by example. 

What feedback, if any, were you given that bothered you? I.e. too ambitious, or too bossy, too demanding? 

Bojana: A few years ago, one manager during a career development conversation told me that I am in a good position to get into senior management in a few months because the company is seeking to have more women leaders (quotas). It bothered me because it sounded like I wouldn’t truly deserve it based on my capacities and merits, but just because of my gender. 

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders? 

Aigerim: You have a powerful voice within you, one that is uniquely yours. Trust that voice, and trust yourself. Remember that your work is meaningful, and the impact you have on others is immeasurable. Embrace your authenticity and let it shine through in everything you do. Be proud of your achievements, and always strive to do your best. Know that your passion and dedication will inspire others to follow your lead. So go forth with confidence, be true to yourself, and always trust your instincts.

Bojana: It is definite that women leaders lead in different ways, so don’t feel the need to work by the usual ways and the well paved path. Keep your authenticity and rebuild the road. Keep your balance. Find supporters. Dare to try.

Maryna: Work constantly on self-awareness and never give up!