This series shares personal accounts of trailblazing women on why it is so important to gather in sisterhood and what they did to create it for themselves. Meet Annie Arsane Regional Head of Marketing, GBS METAP at Tiktok/Bytedance.
What does sisterhood mean to you, and why is it important in empowering women?
First of all, I am here as a result of tons of effort from the women who came before me. So at a minimum, I owe it to them to give back. I have two daughters - Ella and Carlie. When I had Ella, the guilt of going back to work was unbearable. I felt like a terrible mother every single day. But you know what I realized? I realized that by working and by continuing to be a mother and, in this case, a career woman, I am teaching them that becoming a mom will not stop everything else that they love doing. I am teaching them that children complete their lives should they decide to have them. Another reason to give back is to actually make the world a little better for the next generation. I am involved in a few women empowerment initiatives, including ‘Think Equal’ with The Marketing Society, an initiative that focuses on women mid-level managers with the aim of getting them into top management.
How have female mentors and role models influenced your personal and professional growth?
Supportive alliances have been a cornerstone of my career journey. Our GM often mentions this proverb: if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. There are 2 alliances that propelled me forward, one at home and one in the office. At home, my partnership with my husband. We’ve realized that the concept of a ‘lead career’ is dynamic, and as a result, we have been very deliberate in managing it. So when my career needs the most focus, we both lean into it with him providing the support and flexibility I need. At other times, his career takes priority. The second alliance is at work, with my leaders. My career sponsors have been amazing men. Not only are they smart and capable, but they are true believers in diversity in all its aspects, whether it be diversity of thought, or of background, or of gender because they know diversity is key to the success of their business. I urge women to not shy away from forming alliances with their leaders. This needs to be deliberate. Reach out and see what happens – an alliance is inherently a mutually beneficial partnership, and when they actually take off, they elevate you and your entire team. Don’t let negativity get to you. Try forming supportive alliances. What have you got to lose?
What are some challenges faced by women in finding or accessing female mentors and role models, and how can these barriers be overcome?
My biggest challenge has been self-talk. If I talked to others like I talked to myself, I would certainly have no friends. I used to tell myself – 'this works, it’s comfortable, why change?' I told myself, 'I am going to start a family, why try for that promotion? What if I fail? I am sure others don’t think like this.' That’s the fallacy, though. Others are doing the same thing to themselves. The more I talked to other women or read about the topic, the more I saw that it’s exactly the opposite: negative self-talk is the norm. I’ve been dealing with this in 2 ways: - Say it out loud. Brene Brown says that shame loves secrecy, and that is so true. When I share my self-talk with someone I trust, it dies on the spot. Counter it with pompous talk! You have to be very deliberate with this, as soon as it starts, remind yourself that you have negative self-talk all the time, but you always manage to find a way.
In what ways can sisterhood and mentorship help break down gender stereotypes and foster a more inclusive society?
Gender representation in leadership is crucial in terms of inspiration for the next generation of humans, regardless of their gender. The stereotype of a successful leader has been built over decades of it being an almost exclusive male position, thus the traits of leadership have become heavily male-skewed, forming an unconscious bias against women and also men who do not fit the male leader stereotype. You can see how this becomes a vicious cycle encouraging more of the same at the top, and discouraging women. Why would any woman in this case be inspired to get into a role where her very success is predicated on traits and behaviours that she might not even believe in? The more women we have at the top, the more the world will get used to a diversity of approaches to leadership, and the more young girls will think: 'Hey, I can do that.'
What principles guide you in becoming a better version of yourself every day?
Be deliberate. Intentionality is a core guiding principle for me. I’ve learned this through various instances throughout my career - when you are intentional about where you want to go, the path becomes clear and the effort to do so becomes easier to shoulder. It’s much more fun to be in the driver’s seat, and yes the risk of failure becomes higher, but I know this from experience: failure is temporary, regret though, is forever. So, be intentional and enjoy the ride.
This piece was first published in Communicate's Women to Watch Issue 2023.