March 12, 2021
The world is calling for more inclusivity and diversity, and it’s time as society that we answer. At Electriphi, we believe that showcasing a multitude of voices and opinions is good business and breeds innovation. To celebrate Women’s History Month, I want to spotlight the female leaders powering our engine.
Electriphi’s team members are spread across 12 regions, speaking 10 languages, and come from a variety of backgrounds. We are fortunate that our group is filled with different voices, and I had the pleasure of talking to the women in this organization. I wanted to capture their individual experiences, backgrounds, challenges, approaches, and the wisdom they hold. My goal is to highlight their voices and push the needle forward towards a more representative workspace. We hope that this will inspire many more to join us and continue the dialogue.
Emily Connors, our Director of Customer Experience has made multiple transitions in her career while balancing motherhood. She has covered a spectrum of different roles.
Wendy Zhao, our Head of Growth started in data analytics at fortune 500 companies before jumping into startups to steer product development and growth.
Meiye Wang, our Technical and Product Analyst is a driven nature enthusiast who is committed to making a positive impact on the environment through her work.
Understanding a bit of their backgrounds, I was curious what inspired them to transition into the EV industry and how they came to join Electriphi.
From personal experience I know it can be terrifying to enter a new industry, especially one that is young and growing. I can imagine the anxiety is comparable to starting a new project that you’ve never done before, unsure of the first step to take. It was the conversations I had with Wendy that excited me to take on this adventure. Similar to myself, the women on our team came from industries outside of the [EV] space. I found consensus in their stories that all the nervous jitters become worthwhile if you find the right group of people and can work towards a shared vision.
Emily spoke about her experience when she was first introduced to Joel Torr, Head of Business Development and Partnerships. She was impressed that a startup at such an early stage is so customer-centric. The desire to hire a customer success lead so early was a sign to her that the customer-obsessed mindset is ingrained into the culture.
Wendy called it serendipity when she was connected to Electriphi. “It’s one of those ‘fortuitous meetings’. A mentor and friend of mine connected me to Muffi and Sanjay. All I had heard was that there were these two smart guys who needed someone who can jump in quickly and help them execute and accelerate.” She didn’t come from the transportation industry, but she had worked with multiple startups and understands the growing pains of one.
“It's a complex space that goes way beyond a software app. The prospect of building the logistics and intelligence engine for the next generation’s energy source, that’s something I can get behind.” - Wendy Zhao
Meiye joined the team through Wendy and Sanjay, one of our Cofounders and CTO. She had an initial interest in the environment that led her to pursue her masters in Environment and Sustainability with a concentration in transportation. She shared with me a story from her childhood about a move to a more urbanized city and how that impacted her outlook.
“As a kid, I remember I loved watching the fireflies. When I grew older and moved to the city, I was disappointed to learn that the light pollution affects their behavior and they tend to avoid populated areas. This made me really concerned for the environment, and inspired me to pursue a career focused on this space.” - Meiye Wang
Every woman on the team emphasizes the importance of the people and core mission of a company when it comes to their career moves.
There have been big strides made in bridging the gender gap, including advancements in workplace equality. But even with the forward momentum, there still exists discrepancies between male and female representation in leadership roles. Catalyst, a nonprofit focused on advocating for women, found that as of August 2020 there are only 13 female CEOs running global Fortune 500 companies.* The same reporting showed that the utilities and transportation sector is a heavily male dominated industry, especially when combined with technology and software.*
Knowing this, I asked our group to share some of the challenges they noticed as a woman in a male dominated work space.
Whether it's from social conditioning to be more soft spoken, or self doubt from having to juggle work and personal responsibilities, these conversations showcased internalizations that each person harbored.
Emily explained that one challenge is we [women] tend to feel more apologetic than our male counterparts. “The biggest challenge is constantly feeling the need to apologize about my kids, especially if I am taking a call on the go where I am not able to easily mute myself. Being a mom, you are juggling so many things outside of work- that is a challenge because you feel guilty that you are not doing enough at home or at work .”
Meiye shared that she has experienced passive aggressiveness from men on her teams before, especially when she needs to take a more assertive approach. “When you are an international student and a woman there is this expectation that you are not very assertive.”
Wendy pointed out that over time she noticed the lack of representation in leadership roles by people similar to her. Generally, those positions are held by older men. While that in itself is not an issue, she notes:
“What is needed is to recognize these differences and have an open mindset that values alternative perspectives. True diversity is not only how we look, but also how we think and what we've experienced. ” - Wendy Zhao
When we spoke about challenges, it was clear that having a certain approach can be helpful to being heard. I asked our group, what approaches do they take?
From years of prior anecdotes and the stories from these interviews, I recognized a pattern where women are more likely to face situations where her voice is dismissed. It could be that she was sharing a relevant idea that was quickly discounted. Or at certain times she would not even be invited to the conversation. Research has shown that women can overcompensate and strive to be more prepared than their male counterparts, often due to self doubt or because they see it as a necessity to be taken seriously.* It becomes important to find environments that support your seat at the table, and also trust in yourself and know that you deserve it.
"It is really important to build mutually respectful relationships with colleagues. I feel lucky that this is easy to do at Electriphi. Having a diverse team, and working towards a common mission helps facilitate this.”-Emily Connors
Speaking up and voicing dissenting opinions can be especially difficult if you are conditioned to do the opposite from a young age. Wendy advises to practice during internal meetings and to find a safe setting where you can get feedback on presentation and communication skills. Focused and deliberate practice can boost your skillset, and also increase confidence to voice your thoughts.
Meiye describes her approach is by learning and observing the people around her,
“I try to emulate the male leaders and I notice the difference between [female and male] leads. Men are usually more direct and give exact directions, whereas women will give more background and context behind their directions.”- Meiye Wang
I too noticed this difference in leadership approaches: female leaders from my experience are more inclined to give contextual details when explaining a task or problem. That's not a bad thing. The benefit of providing context is that it gives their team a deeper understanding of what needs to be accomplished. It also eliminates the fear some employees may feel to ask clarifying questions or bring up new ideas.
Joining Electriphi, I noticed immediately that the team is filled with unique and diverse personalities, skill sets and cultural experiences. We have team members in Mexico, India, Canada, and various states in the US. The experience I had differed from any previous teams I worked with. There were more active conversations and greater variety in communication styles.
We talked about challenges and approaches as a woman in the workplace. I wanted some insights about what their experience has been like at Electriphi.
One advantage of being spread across a variety of locations is the flexibility in our work schedules. Emily highlights this gives her ownership of the day to be more present with her kids. For parents, especially moms, this balancing act can be a struggle. The ability to control your schedule expands the opportunities, especially for women who may find themselves facing the choice between family or career.
“It is so important to find a leadership team that is understanding and promotes work life balance. It makes the balancing act worth it . - Emily Connors
Growing up, I remember my mom nudging me to be more soft spoken and not speak my opinions around strong male figures. To her dismay, I was never great at listening to her, even to this day.
In contrast, Electriphi’s culture is more dominant. Voicing opinions is encouraged and expected. Wendy explained that it can be an adjustment for some people, “Not speaking up is counterproductive to the company and team’s growth. So having a strong perspective is a great thing. But you have to back it up with solid reasoning and data.”
Meiye adds that the diversity in our team is an advantage:
“We should be utilizing diversity to make sure everyone is heard and seen.- Meiye Wang
In this way, we can continue to push the boundaries to ensure everyone is properly heard.
At the end of our conversations, I asked Emily, Wendy, and Meiye for any closing advice that they wanted to pass on.
- Surround yourself with intelligent people that you can lean on
- Develop and keep a continuous learning mindset
- Look for an inclusive and supportive leadership in work environment
- Don’t let the fear of being wrong keep you from asking questions
- Don't feel like you have to do everything. Leverage other’s strengths and focus where you excel
This was a unique experience. The conversations with these women on our team allowed me to build a kinship with them. I was able to not only capture their experiences and stories but I got to know them as individuals. One of the biggest takeaways was the importance of listening with an open mind. Too often I find myself caught up with day to day responsibilities, and it was a reminder to make the effort to be receptive to other perspectives, especially differing ones.
Society as a whole has made strides towards a more inclusive workplace, but there’s still more work to do. Just like our fingerprints, each individual has unique backgrounds, upbringings, experiences, and thought processes. To truly hone in on diversity we may need to be mindful and willing to unlearn some of information we have been taught about others. The EV industry is young and as we grow, there is great opportunity to do things differently than those before us. I hope the wisdom from these voices at Electriphi will be fruitful for all.
Curious to dive deeper and hear the voices of these women themselves? See what has shaped their unique perspectives.
Ilaria Chang (Author)
Growing up I was the embodiment of Curious George and it felt fitting in a sense that I was born on the year of the monkey. I had a tendency to ask ‘why’ to almost anything and everything - I may have driven my parents a little nuts with my inquisitive nature. This is an attribute I carry into my work and life today. I think this drives my creativity that is needed in my work, it allows me to understand at a deeper level the reasoning behind an objective and how to connect with the purpose. The urge to learn more about anything that peaks my interest has certainly made my life a lot more exciting with lots of stories and adventures to share.
It’s that curiosity, that leads me into new ventures like the EV industry. The industry is new with so many unanswered questions to be uncovered, and I just can’t help the need to turn over those rocks. Plus I love a good challenge, they always lead to memorable moments.
I was raised by a strong woman who followed her passions all while raising 4 kids. From an early age, we were taught that hard work, grit, curiosity and kindness were the key to being successful and living a whole and full life. It is with this grit and curiosity that I choose to be a part of this amazing startup and industry and it is with this kindness and empathy that I choose to interact with both my colleagues and our customers.
It is with these attributes that I also (try to!) parent my 2 wild and sweet children. When they were born, I made the decision to quit my career and be home full-time- so afraid to miss the fleeting younger years of their childhood. I do not regret this decision, nor would I trade it for anything in the world- but coming back into the workforce after those 4 years “off” was hard, scary and filled with moments of self-doubt and the all-too familiar imposter syndrome. No matter the decision we make regarding our career and as mothers- it is all hard. My experience gives me so much admiration and understanding for all women and the decisions they must make between and for career and family.
I'm a late bloomer. There was a saying when I was growing up, that children should be seen but not heard. So when I found my inner rebel in my 20's, there was a lot of bottled up opinions waiting to spill. I decided I couldn't be that person who just smiled and stuck to my lane. Not every challenge needs to be met with a sledge hammer, and not every problem needs to be solved in that instance. But consistently taking steps towards the change you want, that’s going to bring about transformation in the long run.
The underdog story or the unorthodox is really compelling. I like it because it's a story of hope and persistence. So getting into the world of high-growth startups, building something from nothing, just clicked with me. I’ve never seen myself as a wallflower. In fact I have a tendency to jump towards the line of fire. Stumble I may, and I have plenty of battle scars through the years. But you can bet I’ll be back to the fight the next day.
So don't stop questioning the status quo. I'd say that’s the essence of entrepreneurship and why I’m drawn towards it. I use the same process to guide my personal and career choices. Be bold, and do so with integrity.
Meiye (May) Wang
I have always been a nature and outdoor lover, my favorite book as a teenager was Henry David Thoreau's Walden. I knew I would study something related to the environment or plants early in my life. Unlike Thoreau, I am an existentialist. I believe in human beings and technologies, and I believe as a whole we can find a way to heal the planet and fight climate change. I love the steep learning curves at this vibrant clean tech start up, I know this is the path I should take to grow, thrive, and make positive impacts .
- Women in the Workforce – Global: Quick Take
- Women in Male-Dominated Industries and Occupations: Quick Take
- Women in Management: Quick Take
- Why Diversity and Inclusion Matter: Quick Take
- Female Fortune 500 CEOs Reach an All-Time High, but It's Still a Small Percentage
- Women in the workforce – global: Quick Take. (2021, February 11). Catalyst.
- Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Male-Dominated Industries and Occupations (February 5, 2020).
- Catalyst, The Double-Bind Dilemma for Women in Leadership (August 2, 2018).