Humans of Jacobs: Tanja Anabelle
In 2018, Jacobs alumna Tanja Anabelle Deisler started her own fashion brand, Corner Office. Annabelle’s brand focuses on sustainable production within the EU and nearshore, and it aims to be the one-stop shop for all things related to professional clothing for women. Corner Office doesn’t only sell clothes – it was conceived from a desire to boost confidence and pride, build a community of inspiring females, and empower women at the workplace.
Anabelle studied International Logistics Management and Engineering (now called Industrial Engineering and Management) and graduated from Jacobs University in 2010. Since 2013 she has been working in Management Consulting at Accenture in Munich. Throughout her career, Anabelle has noticed that in her industry she is always surrounded mostly by male coworkers and counterparts. As she furthered her studies she also experienced something similar. After graduating from Jacobs, Anabelle continued her education at Hult International Business School and at MIT.
Anabelle has a very curious, outgoing and inquisitive personality. Starting her career in Management Consulting at 23 in the engineering department, in a sector dominated by men, she found the atmosphere to be a little stiff and loaded with stereotypes and prejudice. She soon started gathering a series of experiences at work that made her become more and more critical about gender stereotypes and the role of women at the workplace, and she developed an interest in collecting experiences from other women in other contexts as well. Anabelle is very analytical about the patterns of behavior that she extracts from all of these stories – everyone has a story to tell and she enjoys sharing her own, as well as her antidotes for sexism. For example, she speaks about the different ways in which her skills are questioned purely on the basis of her gender.
She looks back on projects where her male colleagues reduced her to a mere coffee brewer and water fetcher. It is not that she thinks herself too good for such tasks – it’s that nobody is. It’s that she wouldn’t get meaningful tasks even when she asked, which meant that she was not being challenged with productive responsibilities that would allow her to learn and gain more experience in the field that she had worked so hard for.
She recalls the occasions when instead of receiving constructive workplace feedback from her superiors about her performance in the projects, she confronted men who gave her unwanted opinions on subjects completely out of place, and who condescended on her choice of career and overstepped all boundaries by giving unsolicited “life advice” and demeaning her worth in the industry.
She analyzes comments that have been made about her appearance, which were also a source of inspiration for her fashion brand. Anabelle likes to look sharp – she likes power clothes, emboldening accessories and tartan suits. One of her male colleagues felt entitled to say that she doesn’t look good in those, and that she should wear skirts and dresses instead.
All of these and many more encounters have impacted Anabelle and made her analyze the behaviors of all genders as well as her own reactions, and empower herself. What is Anabelle’s take? Be powerful and assertive. Always be honest, polite and professional, but set boundaries and make people stick to them. Never be shy – be appropriately bossy and demanding.
All these questions and her experiences in Management Consulting inspired Anabelle to start Corner Office. She works in an industry where clients buy her expertise for expensive rates. People form 60 - 80% of their first opinions about a new person in less than 4 minutes. For those in Anabelle’s position, it is crucial to look professional and credible. In psychological terms this is called the Halo Effect, where the overall impression of a person determines how people feel and think about their character. As a woman facing ingrained and systemic prejudice and constant sexist micro-aggressions, Anabelle uses her clothes as a weapon in her favor. She seeks garments that make her feel empowered, but the clothing industry didn’t always meet her expectations. Her options were mostly blouses that close 15 cm away from the neckline – the fashion industry for women still tends to conform to the widely accepted, yet sexist stereotypes aimed at satisfying the gaze of others. Hence, Corner Office’s mission is to provide sustainable options for women who dress in the style that the brand produces. The goal is to offer choices that make women feel strong and confident, but also approachable and friendly – and that let them choose which one is the last button to close.