“Pursue what makes you happy” | Interview with Saira Arif

I met Saira at the Technology for Good Think Tank Launch – As an ambassador I was helping with the set up and supporting the founder Sharon throughout the evening. Saira was a guest speaker, as part of her role at ORCHA.

ORCHA is the World’s leading health app evaluation and advisor organisation. The company help governments, health and social care organisations to choose and deliver health apps that will safely make the biggest impact in terms of improving outcomes.

As soon as Saira stepped up to the podium, I was immediately in awe of how she held the room as she talked through the slides on the important work ORCHA do to ensuring the health care apps are safe to be out in the public domain. As soon as the event was finished I made sure we swapped details, I knew I wanted to feature her on The Wonder Women in Tech….


Tell us about you…

My name is Saira, I come from a legal background, specialising in family law for a short while before starting my own Advocacy company which provided BAME community members with support accessing local services. However for the past 8 years, I worked for the NHS in Integrated Care and Digital Health. I currently work for a global leader in Digital Health to progress my interest in supporting the uptake of mobile apps for health and care. I have been a speaker and panellist at various health events, forums and roundtable discussions in Parliament, and was the winner of the SPIRIT 2020 Award following my Digital Pioneer Fellowship with DigitalHealth.London.

I am very passionate about social justice and was fortunate to have one of my NHS project’s recognised and awarded the NHS Parliamentary Award for London.

In my spare time, I am the Co Founder of Project DESI, which aims to digitally empower members of the BAME community through social inclusion.

I am also the Founder of Dollhaus London, a platform for empowering women from all walks of life through understanding pains and traumas and turning them into power and strength. Being a Mental Health First Aider has also really allowed me the opportunity to confidently help others where needed, and I find that platforms like Dollhaus London allow me to help others, be it indirectly perhaps.

Some of my core values include:

Self improvement – always learning and improving myself whether it’s general knowledge, or enhancing my skills in existing roles to actually learning something completely new! I am not the type of person who stays in one field forever, I believe we should try everything and anything we can in this life and if it makes us better people then we have found our calling!

Freedom – I feel that happiness comes from being free in my thinking and doing

Kindness and love – always be kind to others.

Honesty – I’d rather be honest and hated, than be loved and be deceitful!

Creativity and imagination – if we lose this, then life will be very boring indeed!

Do you think there is a lack of females in the sector that you are in?

I think in the growing years there has been an increase of women in the tech and digital health sector, and it’s amazing that I get to work in an organisation where the founder and CEO is a woman! Women leaders are still somewhat a minority though in various sectors. It has been nice to see that over the years, that women are starting to come into more leadership roles.

Do you find there is a stereotype that there are certain careers for men and women?

Yes it still exists- even when I worked as a lawyer, I always felt like I was never part of the boys club and felt like I had to work extra hard just to prove my efforts. Even in digital health and tech, the stereotype still somewhat exists, but I feel that as more women are starting to emerge as founders and CEOs, we will see a dynamic shift soon.

Are there barriers when it comes to women getting into more senior positions? If yes, why do you think this is?

Historically men have always outpaced women in leadership and senior positions across many sectors. Even the Fortune 500 companies, women hold only 19% of board seats and 15% of executive officer positions. Only 4% of women are CEOs at these companies! I believe there are different challenges and barriers women face when it comes to acquiring senior positions:

-structural barriers – non welcoming networks, professional clubs etc

– institutional mindsets – so your typical form of gender bias, and stereotyping

– individual mindsets – women may have thoughts that hold them back from getting involved or pursuing high ranked jobs

– lifestyle choices – work life balance, family choices that a woman may have to make.

What good advice would you give The Wonder Women in Tech?

My advice with anything would be to pursue what makes you happy, not what you are expected to do.


Thank you Saira for a brillant interview – If Saira inspired you, you can get in touch with her – by checking out her Instagram pages:
@iamsairaxo
@dollhauslondon
@projectdesii


Would you like to feature on The Wonder Women in Tech? Please get in touch, by using the contact page.

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