On International Women’s Day, we sat down with our General Manager, Mira Raham, to get her perspective on what it’s like to be a women, a working mom and running Loop, an up-and-coming technology startup in the Middle East.
Interview transcribed from audio
Today is International Women’s Day and the theme for this year is ‘Think equal, build smart, innovate for change’. What does that mean to you?
Mira: Well it’s always good to read those beautiful words but I also do not believe that there should be one day to celebrate women’s achievement. It should be celebrated everyday.
I believe that regardless of gender, when a person works on his or her capabilities and puts effort, puts their mind and heart into something they would be able to achieve it.
So equality is not merely about competition, it’s about putting the ability that everyone has into something that he or she likes and success can only be the result.
It all boils down to what one’s capabilities are, be it a man or a woman, so let’s celebrate every day men and women, whatever we do, with love.
What are the main challenges for women in business in Lebanon and how did you overcome them?
Mira: I think the challenge for women not only in Lebanon but in most parts of the world (and as I said I’ve worked in Lebanon and in the Gulf), is a stereotype that women can’t or are not allowed to take jobs that are not for them.
Of course a woman or a man can do any job.
Now the challenge as I said, is the image that people have of women that they cannot achieve any job. This is it mainly, it’s this stereotype.
How it was overcome?
Well when I first was talking to the founder of the company and he suggested for me to take that job, to establish the company in Lebanon and run it from A to Z, I said to him this is not for me, you need a man to do this, it’s all about scooters, motorcycles and logistics and this is not for me I know nothing about it.
He said well if you like it you can do anything.
I believed in that but I was really motivated because when he said that I saw a man who believes in the capabilities of women, and I salute him, Mr. Anwar Sukkarie, who is the founder and CEO of this company so I accepted to take that challenge with pleasure.
And again I believe that when you put your heart and your mind into something that you like you can only succeed. What you think is an obstacle will in reality be a stepping stone.
At Loop, my great support was my team, a team of 3 gentlemen young and motivated who believed in the company and who also believed in me and if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have achieved what we achieved so it’s not attributed to me as a woman, it’s attributed to me as a woman supported by a team of men and this is how life works.
How would you describe your experience as a woman running a startup while also being a mom?
Mira: I believe every job has its challenges for moms whether it’s at a startup or at a bigger company, there is always a challenge for moms who strive to be next to their children at all times of the day.
However, a woman can introduce balance in her life, spend quality time at home with her kids and do great at her job. She can do it.
Now some women are bound by working hours and this is where it becomes harder but still I think a woman should always seek what creates balance in her life because this gives her peace of mind which allows her to give and to be productive.
What new perspectives do women bring to the entrepreneurial scene?
Mira: Well, I’m 45 so I will allow myself to talk a bit about an added value that women have and that I noticed and realized throughout my life and my career which is the ability for a woman to multitask.
Because she is a woman by nature, because she becomes a mom by nature, the ability for her to be able to manage her house, her job, her husband, her kids, her parents all at the same time, she usually succeeds in it.
This gives women an edge to succeed in their jobs.
There is no differentiation between women and men in terms of thinking capabilities or intelligence but I think that multitasking for women is something easier for her to do and it comes to her naturally so this is where she succeeds.
What are you most proud of in your career to date?
Mira: What I’m most proud of is the fact that I haven’t failed for those 25 years in any task that was given to me no matter how big or complicated it was.
That’s the main thing I am proud of, it’s a personal thing, it’s a challenge between me and myself, the fact that I never failed in anything that was given to me.
How is Loop empowering women?
Mira: The fact that Loop in Lebanon was run, for the initial months by a woman, is by itself something very empowering to women. It shows them that it can be done. I started and was working on the company alone before I was joined by my team of 3 gentlemen.
Scooters and motorcycles are usually thought of as things for men, so breaking that stereotype proves that no matter what field the company operates in, women are equally capable of running it.
Also, the service that we offer which is scooter sharing, is used by men but is also being used a lot by women (university students, young professional and entrepreneurs), this is giving them the independence they need to move around, finish their work and achieve their goals without having to rely on anyone to get them to their destination, except themselves.
On International Women’s Day, what advice would you give young women who are aspiring to be in a similar role?
Mira: Very simply, I would tell young women but also older women who still have something in their minds that they’d like to achieve, I tell them, do not hesitate, put your heart and your mind into it and you will never ever fail, you will only succeed.
It only needs passion and loving what you’re doing and you will only succeed.
Mira Raham joined Loop Sal since the company inception in Beirut and oversees all the aspects of the company’s operations. Mira is an ex-banker with around 20 years of experience in that sector in Lebanon and abroad and also has previous experience with start-ups. Mira holds a Masters degree in Public Administration from the American University of Beirut.