In honor of Women’s History Month, we talked with women all over the industry about the other women who have influenced them, ways to support women in our communities, and more.
For this installment, we talked with Industrial Engineer at New Balance, Kareem Arcano. Kareem talks about the incredible examples of her mother and aunts, the importance of diverse and worldly perspectives, and how mentorship can have a huge impact.
This interview has been lightly edited.
Who are the women who have influenced you?
The women closest to me have had the biggest impact on my life. My aunts have been married for over 30 years with several kids and still managed to have amazing careers as a doctor and an architect. My mom gave me the best example to follow by being a strong woman that can have an amazing family, she has been married for 40 years and has four daughters, and still has a successful career as an engineer for over 30 years. She showed me that I can do anything if I want it and work hard to get it. Each of my sisters has also influenced me a great deal, showing me that you can be successful in your career of choice, whether it is finance, medicine or engineering, and have time for your family.
What is the most overrated or underrated thing at the moment?
I believe that the impact immigrants have in this country is extremely underrated. We are hearing more and more about how immigrants should go back to their countries and America is for the Americans, but no one talks about the valuable contribution we make to the economy and society. As a Venezuelan that immigrated to this country in search of a better life, it pains me to see this thought taking root in many minds. We are not here to take people’s jobs or hurt them, we are here to make this country better with our contributions, which will result in all our lives being better.
If you could give advice to your younger self, what would you say?
My advice would be to speak up. Do not be afraid of saying what you believe should be said, and make sure people hear you. In the beginning of my career, I tended to be the only woman in a room full of male engineers, making me feel extremely intimidated and I chose to stay quiet. Later I learned that nobody gained anything from that, least of all me, so I started speaking up more; and when they wouldn’t listen, I would back everything with facts, giving them no other option but to pay attention. Never be afraid to speak your mind and never feel bad for being a strong woman that makes people listen to you.
What is something we can all do, regardless of gender, to lift the voices of women in our communities?
We can all give women in our community a platform where they can express themselves without being judged and where there are no double standards. Let’s make sure we hear what women have to say instead of talking about what they are wearing or if their tone of voice was appropriate since we NEVER mention any of this about any man that’s making their point or trying to be heard.
What’s next for you?
I am the new Protoshop and Development Center Manager for New Balance. I will oversee the area used to create prototypes and new processes to mass-produce the new styles. I will be leading a group of 15 associates and hopefully will make a great impact on our customers!
BONUS: Has there been a time in your life where another woman has lifted you up? What’s that story and what did it feel like?
Karen Coombs, my previous manager in New Balance, did everything in her power to help me grow. She offers guidance and advice when I need it. When I asked for more opportunities to develop managerial skills, she was able to give me a small group to coach so I can be prepared for new opportunities in the future. When I asked her for advice on the best way to learn about the organization, she took a whole day off from her busy schedule as Plant Manager and took me to the HQ to meet different people and learn new things. It felt so good to have a strong leader that takes the time to help you and coach you and prepare you for the next step but also, as a woman, understands your insecurities and tries to get you out of your shell so you can conquer the world.