Tech, Now + Beyond, Interviews

Stilobox Founder Roya Sabeti is building up women to be leaders in tech

Roya Sabeti’s work is all about empowering female leaders, but what inspires her?

It takes a highly empowered leader to be able to make a career out of empowering other women. Roya Sabeti is exactly the woman for the job. Founding Stilobox in March 2018, Roya made it her life purpose to help shape women who aspire to become bold leaders by offering opportunities for personal and professional growth.

She believes that personal experiences are the best source of inspiration. Through her own online channels, Roya often publishes articles that aim to motivate readers. On Stilobox, she features testimonials from other badass leaders.

Stilobox is more than a blog. It is a digital resource platform for budding leaders based in the Bay Area where speaking opportunities and leadership workshops can be found. Even if the site is only months old, it already boasts of a fine roster of female leaders, which includes Laila Alawa, The Tempest‘s very own Founder and CEO.

The Tempest had the chance to chat with Roya about how and why she founded Stilobox, and what fuels her inspiration to pursue this field.

Image description: A photo from Roya Sabeti's talk on women empowerment.
[Image description: A photo from Roya Sabeti’s talk on women’s empowerment.] via
The Tempest: What inspired you to create Stilobox?

Roya Sabeti: I am very passionate about empowering women and providing resources to help them grow as leaders. I created Stilobox as a resource for women aspiring to lead. We share speaking opportunities, stories of inspirational female leaders, and events or workshops focused on empowering women and leadership.

I became sick of seeing so many conferences and events with such a lack of diversity, or panels with all male speakers. I knew that speaking and growth opportunities for women existed, and if I could find and deliver them to awesome women, then maybe we could change those numbers.

I know so many amazing women who deserve to share their story, expertise, and companies with the world.

I’ll give an example. When the movie Wonder Woman came out last year, my boyfriend and I went to see it in theatres. I was super excited that finally, a superhero movie with a female lead appeared. I knew I would react in unexpected ways, but I what I didn’t expect to feel was angry. Yes, angry. About halfway through the movie, I realized that this is what little boys grow up watching with each and every single superhero movie. They leave the theatre feeling like they can save the world. I had never experienced that feeling leaving a theatre. I cannot remember a single time in my life I’ve watched a movie with a female lead in which the men completely step aside as she beats up the bad guys and handles it all. I left feeling that I could take over the world. If she can do it, I can do it too. This is the feeling every single little girl needs to experience — the feeling that she can do it too.

By having more women stand up and share their stories on stage, we’ll see a viral effect where more women realize: “Hey, if she did it then I can do it too!” Because she can.

In your experience, how can speaking opportunities help women become better leaders?

I’ve noticed a pattern in women that I don’t see as often in men. That is that women tend to think they’re “not ready” while men will volunteer for every opportunity to share their company or idea, be the expert, even if they’re not the best person to do so. Speaking about and sharing your company, idea, or story helps you grow as a person, and it also opens doors which might never have existed otherwise.

What are some  specific experiences that led you to decide to do this work in the tech industry?

The tech industry is definitely dominated by men, however, in the last couple years, a shift has begun to happen. More women are speaking up and sharing their experiences, both positive and negative, and it’s starting conversations and leading the way for change. I am beyond excited for this shift — the next generation of women to own it, in particular — and who continue to pursue being founders, executives, and leaders in tech.

Are there any women that you particularly admire who you’ve landed gigs for?

One particular woman — and now a friend — who I greatly admire is Ritika Puri, co-founder of Storyhackers. Though the newsletter is only a couple month old, Ritika has been in two panels though opportunities she came across via Stilobox. Unfortunately, I don’t always get to hear the success stories or see what happens once the newsletter is sent out. Sometimes it gets forwarded along and my hope is maybe it lands in someone’s inbox who applies for an opportunity and it changes the entire trajectory of her company. It’s like planting seeds along the road. Sometimes you don’t get to enjoy or even see the flowers that bloom, but you know that someone is benefiting from their beauty. In this case, the opportunities shared with them.

What were some challenges that you had to face in the process of creating Stilobox? What are some that you still deal with?

I still feel impostor syndrome and worry that the newsletter isn’t “good enough” or “ready.” When I first created Stilobox, I agonized over sending out that very first newsletter. I tend to be a perfectionist, and I’ve had to learn to set that tendency aside and become okay with knowing that I’d done my best to curate the best content and opportunities when I hit “Send.” Once I did send it out I received an overwhelmingly positive response! I’ve come to realize perfection doesn’t exist, and by trying to be perfect you’re losing authenticity along the way. This is because nothing, and no one, is truly perfect.

Who are some leaders who inspired you to pursue this field? In what ways did they influence you?

I am inspired by the women who are a part of the Stilobox community. I review each submission and am blown away by the things these women are doing. In each newsletter, I include the story of a female leader I had the pleasure of interviewing. I truly enjoy learning more about each one. For example, how she deals with impostor syndrome, what made her quit her job and become a founder, or even how she practices self-care when feeling overwhelmed. I am so inspired by what they have done and continue to do, to create impact in their industries and communities.

You can find Roya on Instagram, and join Stilobox here.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.