Zalora

ZALORA is Asia’s online fashion and lifestyle destination. Founded in 2012, the company has a presence  in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia & Brunei, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan. ZALORA is part of  Global Fashion Group, the world’s leader in online fashion for emerging markets. ZALORA offers an  extensive collection of top international and local brands and products across apparel, shoes, accessories,  and beauty categories for men and women. Offering up to 30-day free returns, speedy deliveries as fast as 3 hours in some markets, free delivery over a certain spend, and multiple payment methods including cash on-delivery, ZALORA is the online shopping destination with endless fashion possibilities.

Women Shouldn’t be Afraid to Voice Their Thoughts at Work: Ashley Wong

Ashley Wong - Zalora
When she first started working, Ashley Wong remembers being such a timid and introverted person that she would not answer the phone if she was alone in the office. Today, she manages a big team as the head of production at online fashion and lifestyle store Zalora. She credits this transformation...
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When she first started working, Ashley Wong remembers being such a timid and introverted person that she would not answer the phone if she was alone in the office. Today, she manages a big team as the head of production at online fashion and lifestyle store Zalora.

She credits this transformation to the many wonderful women leaders she worked alongside over the years. They helped pick up many skills and a lot of confidence along the way. This journey, she admits, has been fast-paced and challenging as it constantly requires her to constantly adapt to the ever-evolving world of fashion.

Ashley joined Zalora when it was just a start-up, and has seen it grow into one of the biggest fashion e-tailers in Asia. In this chat with Women Icons Network, Ashley talks about gender biases in the workplace, what companies and the women themselves do to overcome them.

The Learnings 

The biggest learning she took from the way her career progressed is that women should not be afraid to voice their thoughts, especially if it is an area that they are knowledgeable about. Even if their ideas are met with disagreements, they should not get discouraged and should recognise that disagreements do not mean a disapproval of their opinions, she stresses.

As a way to back up their argument in a debate or even when proposing a new idea, Ashley thinks women should learn to take the help of data. Data, she adds, will help them provide an unbiased and factual take on the subject at hand, which is hard to argue against.

She firmly believes that women should not be afraid to show their emotions at work, for fear of being perceived as unprofessional. “Rather than eliminate them entirely, women should learn to manage their emotions. They should not cloud their thoughts, decisions or affect their work,” she advises.

Workplace Gender Equality 

Ashley feels that companies should lead by example in terms of having gender equality in the workplace by having a diverse board of members, and ensuring that different genders have an equal opportunity to assume leadership roles.

“I also believe that companies should not only focus on the needs of female employees, but also on men’s –  especially for those that have to juggle familial responsibilities while maintaining their professional careers,” she adds.

Supportive policies such as flexible working arrangements, and longer paternity or maternity leaves should be set in place in every organisation in order to help the employees manage a better work-life balance. This is very important to her personally. As fulfilling as the journey towards a high-paced career has been, Ashley also has learnt to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Way Forward 

Women are usually less bold or assertive to negotiate a higher salary for themselves, she shares. “It would be great to see companies review their hiring practices frequently, and be transparent with their salary range data for parity between genders,” she says, when asked about a solution.

Another solution, she said, would be to inculcate education and awareness on issues and behaviours related to gender equality among the workforce. This should be made mandatory for all levels of managers and employers so as to help foster a more diverse, inclusive and welcoming work environment for all, suggests Ashley.

For a more short-term fix, she talks about the one thing she learnt while working from home during the pandemic – that not everyone has access to the right opportunities at the right time. “To those of us who are able to better manage and navigate the challenges that the pandemic has brought about, gratitude can be easily expressed by understanding and helping others. While there may not always be a perfect solution, offering options helps others feel less trapped or constrained in these tough situations,” she said.

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Shasha Ahmad Bats for Women Empowerment through Modest, yet Powerful Fashion

Shasha Ahmad - Zalora
Kuala-Lumpur based Shasha Ahmad has worked in the fashion retail industry for 18 years. While half of her career was spent as a fashion buyer and manager for a luxury brand, the other has seen her rise in the e-tailing business. She joined Zalora in 2012 to help build the modest wear category. Ni...
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Kuala-Lumpur based Shasha Ahmad has worked in the fashion retail industry for 18 years. While half of her career was spent as a fashion buyer and manager for a luxury brand, the other has seen her rise in the e-tailing business.

She joined Zalora in 2012 to help build the modest wear category. Nine years on, she heads the modest wear category for the company. The mother of two leads a team, consisting largely of women. She talks to Women Icons Network about how Zalora is empowering women through fashion, the changes required to make the modern workplace more inclusive, and how men can help the cause.

Empowering Women and Girls

While she has not encountered any biases since joining the workforce, Shasha has definitely heard of companies preferring to hire men to avoid providing any potential long maternity leaves and child care to female employees. “Naturally, I was appalled by this statement, because I believe that hiring decisions should always be made based on an individual’s qualifications, and never on gender,” she says.

She should know how it’s done. After all, 90% of her team members are women of different races and backgrounds. She ensures to extend this empowerment that her employees get, to their customers as well. Though the team works on building modest fashion brand names, they consistently work towards celebrating women through curated designs that exude power and strength through the silhouettes and trimmings.

They also have special collections in their in-house brand Zalora Young to celebrate International Girls Day (IGD) in October – a movement that aims to empower girls to overcome barriers posed by stereotypes and exclusion. “As a company, we are very much aligned with the movement’s beliefs – that empowered girls of today will be tomorrow’s workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, and political leaders. We will continue ramping up our efforts to support the cause, and contribute to a more gender equal society for all,” states Shasha.

Gender and Workplace

The first step towards improving the state of gender equality at workplaces is to normalise the ascent of qualified women to leadership roles, she believes. Women, she adds, have equal rights to be leaders, and this needs to be said out loud repeatedly until it becomes the norm.

“Often, women in leadership face different challenges than their male counterparts – from being measured by a different yardstick, to having to deal with preconceived biases that can lead to a narrowed view of their potential and accomplishments. As such, there is a pressing need to enforce transparent evaluation and remuneration comparison between genders,” Shasha feels. She adds that it is also important for company heads to ensure that their workforce is diverse, equal and inclusive.

Policies that could work, according to her, turning the concept of an inclusive workplace into a reality include flexible work arrangements for the employees who need it. She believes this would help employees better balance and navigate between their personal and professional responsibilities, and in turn, foster a work environment that is inclusive for all.

Role of Male Allies 

In order to achieve gender balance in the corporate world, men who are already in leadership positions have a huge role to play, thinks Shasha. They should make an effort to identify and mentor female colleagues who have the potential to progress further in their careers for starters, she says giving an example.

“I also think that more compassion and respect should be given to female employees, especially as they often have to juggle between their personal and professional responsibilities,” she says. If provided a safe, diverse and inclusive working environment, all employees would have equal opportunities to grow, learn and excel in their roles, she explains.

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More Female Role Models Needed to Inspire Girls pursue Career in Tech: Silvia Thom

Silvia Thom, Zalora CTO
Silvia Thom has worked in many varied industries in her career spanning one-and-a-half decades - from music and gaming to crowdfunding and beauty. All of these roles have taken her across the globe. Her first brush with the digital world happened when e-commerce had just about started to gain gro...
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Silvia Thom has worked in many varied industries in her career spanning one-and-a-half decades – from music and gaming to crowdfunding and beauty. All of these roles have taken her across the globe.

Her first brush with the digital world happened when e-commerce had just about started to gain grounds in Europe. She was  country manager at the crowdfunding platform  SellABand in Tokyo, Japan, and went on to be the Head of Product at Glossybox.

She joined Zalora in 2013 in the role of a senior product manager. Over the years, she worked her way to rise the ranks at the company where she is now the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). She talks about how e-commerce and technology have changed the world around us in the last decade in this chat with Women Icons Network.

Rise of E-Commerce

While Silvia was always interested in technology, she chose to steer her career into the field when it was first starting to flourish in Europe. Eventually, as the e-commerce industry showed no signs of slowing down, she also decided to make the transition and dive fully into the world of e-commerce amidst the endless career opportunities available.

When she joined Zalora, she started familiarising herself with all parts of the tech stack along with the technology team. She says that growing familiarity with the tech products, business processes and stakeholders over the many years has been incredibly fulfilling, and has contributed significantly to her growth at the company.

“I never thought that I would be able to assume the position of CTO one day! However, when the opportunity came about, it felt very natural to make the transition – especially with the strong backing of the rest of the management team,” says Silvia. Two years into her role as CTO, her passion for technology has only become stronger. She hopes to be able to continue inspiring and empowering other women who aspire to chart their own paths in the field.

Women in Tech

Silvia believes that we are slowly unlocking the potential of technology for gender equality, but it is not yet at a speed that is satisfying or acceptable for everyone. “To quicken the process, we urgently need to create an environment that allows women to find entry points into jobs in tech, and empower them to create their own career paths in the field,” she suggests.

Having more female entrepreneurs and founders in the industry would definitely help fuel this change, and even increase its pace, she says. Female leaders in the tech space, she feels, play an important role in inspiring change and supporting other women to achieve their dreams.

Talking about herself, she describes how she does her part by serving as a coach to other aspiring female leaders through mentorship programmes or speaking at industry events. “I also have been taking cues from female entrepreneurs based in Germany. I find that many are very relatable, down-to-earth, and mindful of their work-life balance, while performing well in their roles,” she informs. This is something that she would love to see more of in the Southeast Asian technology space in the near future.

AI & Gender Equality

With the rise of artificial intelligence in the tech space, Silvia thinks it is important to question whether AI will be inclusive and diverse enough. According to research by the World Economic Forum and LinkedIn, only 22% of the jobs in AI were held by women in 2018, with even fewer holding senior roles, she shares.

“This is a worrying statistic, as women in leadership – and especially those in the technology industry – are already often perceived as being less suitable for technology roles as compared to their male counterparts,” she says. She adds that the responsibility lies with big technology companies, who are able to put the right thinking and governance in place to ensure gender equality in the industry.

This, she says, can be done through the creation of a supportive community for women, the assurance of more women role models as female leaders, and the implementation of fair and equal hiring practices. Silvia thinks that if this is not prioritised, there is a risk that the world of technology will continue to grapple with the issue of gender inequality.

For the Aspiring 

For girls and women who wish to have a career in STEM, she has a simple advice: Dream big, and follow your interests and ambitions. They should never be afraid to take on learning experiences, or to ask for opportunities.

She also says that ambitious young people should not get distracted by what other people are doing. “If you feel like you are the one for the job – just lean into it and go for it! It will be hard, but it will all be worth it in the end,” says Silvia.

Every bit of work that you do in the technology space counts, as it helps to shape the future for the next generation of women keen to enter the industry, she believes. She adds that we are all walking on a path that someone else had paved for us, so we should continue to do the same for others to come.

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