Annie Arsane, Head of Platform Strategy, Global Business Solutions, METAP
Career Overview: I joined TikTok at the beginning of 2021, where I established the Platform Strategy team, responsible for building the TikTok for Business brand across METAP. Prior to that, I spent 15 years at Procter and Gamble where I started in the Analytics and Insights department before moving to Brand Management as the Brand Director on Pantene for the MENA region.
Communicate sat down with Arsane to explore her journey to where she stands today and how being a woman has influenced different phases in her career.
How would you define your job today?
The role of the Platform Strategy team is to create and externalize thought-leadership about the industry as a whole and TikTok in specific. My role within this is to enable my team to deliver on this objective by creating the environment and communication flow that allows each one of them to achieve her or his full potential.
Do you face challenges in this role as a woman?
The main challenge that women in the workplace face is the trap of ‘definition.’ Being a woman in the workplace comes with a set of definitions and expectations about what we should do, how we should behave, and what our ambitions should look like. As a result, we often find ourselves trying to be what we ‘should’ be while struggling to find room for what we ‘want’ to be. This puts pressure on women to prove that they can be ‘everything,’ which can lead to a bar so high that it ends up in exhaustion and burnout.
How do you address this pressure?
Every year, towards the end of December, I dedicate time to think through my five priorities for the year, personal and professional. I decide what I want to achieve, and I spend the year working towards it. With this, I have ‘what I want to be’ very clear, I make my choices. In a way, I re-write the generic definition to create my own, thus merging what I should be with what I want to be.
Throughout the years, I have learned that there are a few key ingredients to make this prioritization work: write it down, make the commitment public by sharing it with a few trusted people, and review it at least 2-3 times before the year ends to check your progress and course-correct.
What do you think that, as a woman, you personally bring to your job?
I would love to move to a time where gender no longer defines what people bring to the table. I believe my work experience, my life experience, my role as a mom, and other elements in my life shape the person I am and therefore enable me to bring my unique self to my role. I would say the same applies to my male colleagues; their experiences shape who they are and how they approach the workplace.
What do you think women uniquely bring to the communications, advertising, and marketing industry?
Diversity in general, be it gender, age, experience, etc. is good for business; there have been so many studies to prove that. I am grateful to be part of an organization that values diversity; our GM often talks about the diversity of thought to which I fully subscribe. The more diverse your team is the more ideas they come up with, the more everyone learns from each other, and the stronger we are as a business.
Do you see a shift in the way the regional industry embraces women? And, by the same token, in the way, women position themselves in this industry?
There are efforts to achieve diversity, equality, and inclusion all around us. This includes ensuring diversity of gender and has resulted in more women in the workplace. Consequentially, women have more examples and role models to refer to and thus are encouraged to follow suit. We are indeed seeing a virtuous cycle emerging. There is a lot more work to be done, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
What’s your perspective on the general evolution of women in the workplace today in the region?
I mentioned the virtuous cycle that has started; we are seeing more companies take pride in their diversity numbers and that is an amazing step forward.
That being said, we need to have people focused on the future also to ensure that this evolution continues. The broken rung is real; we need to get women into leadership positions so we can expand this virtuous cycle all the way to the boardroom – we are not there yet.
Do you advocate for more women’s representation in the industry and if so, how?
Yes, absolutely. I have two little girls and I am actively working on leaving the world a little better for them.
Currently, I am leading an effort on behalf of TikTok – a partnership with The Marketing Society and several members from other companies, in which we are putting in place the systems needed to enable women who are middle-level managers to move upwards. There has been a significant effort to get more women into the workplace but as you go up the hierarchy, you are met with a widening gender gap – in its yearly Women in the Workplace report, McKinsey calls this ‘the broken rung.’ We are trying to fix it, at least here in the region and at least in our industry.
What do you think about women’s voices in the region in general?
When I first entered the workplace 16 years ago, I struggled to find role models. Women in high positions were celebrated because of how rare they were. Today, there are many more successful women around me, women I can look up to and be inspired by, women I want to be like.
I would love it if there were more forums for all of us to read each other’s stories and be inspired by one another. The greatest realization for me has been to see that other women go through the same things that I am going through – the feeling that I am not alone in this is a huge motivator, so I would love to be exposed to more of it!
This profile has been featured in Communicate's Q2 2022, "Women to Watch" issue.