For more than 100 years now, March 8 belongs to the supposedly “weaker” sex. It is International Women’s Day, or – as the UN officially refers to it – “United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.” The name does justice to the occasion, which is closely linked to the global fight for equal rights: it was celebrated for the first time in 1911 to support women’s rights activists demanding the right to vote in Europe and the USA.
Over a century later, women have achieved a lot worldwide: traditional gender roles are fading, brave and successful women are making headway in previously male-dominated fields. There remains a lot to be done, however – especially in the wake of the #metoo and #timesup movements.
The question of equal rights for men and women is one that plays out in everyday interactions – on the streets and in meeting rooms, classrooms and living rooms all over the world. International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to draw attention to women’s rights, condemn discrimination and celebrate progress. It is even a public holiday in certain countries, like China, where women get the afternoon off. Germany’s capital is also joining in: Berlin was the first Federal Land to declare International Women’s Day a statutory public holiday. Even now, the day has lost none of its relevance and symbolic force.
Holiday or not, it is the perfect day for us to celebrate strong women at Henkel. Women who go their own way in life and at work, who rise to challenges and inspire other people. They are all very different, but they do have one thing in common: their commitment. We dedicate this #StrongWomen series to them.
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What defines a strong woman?
The definition of “strength” is as multifaceted and individual as the women themselves. The #StrongWomen series features female employees who take on responsibility in executive roles, stand their ground in traditionally male-dominated areas, break stereotypes, take on extraordinary athletic challenges or dedicate their free time to helping other people. They are unstoppable. They pursue their goals passionately, and they support one another along the way. They inspire those around them – men and women alike.
These women include Amélie Vidal-Simi and Soulef Karoui. Both employees represent Henkel as Country Presidents, Vidal-Simi in France, Karoui in Tunisia. Both of them also have children, and they both say the same thing: having a family and having a career are not mutually exclusive – as long as you set the right priorities. Then there’s Rapeephan Chiraphichet and Claudia Wittfoth, whose love of running gives them something to hold on to through difficult times. The sport has taught them that giving up is not an option: endurance is what gets you to the finish line.
Over the next few weeks, more portraits of strong women at Henkel will follow:
The lives of these two women are similar, but mostly in that they are unapologetically in charge at work and at home. Amélie Vidal-Simi in France and Soulef Karoui in Tunisia are living proof that you can have it all.
Rapeephan Chiraphichet from Thailand and Claudia Wittfoth from Germany have more than just their love of running in common. Both women have overcome hard blows of fate – and have come out stronger than ever on the other side.
Uniting family and career under one roof is not always easy – especially as a single mother. It was not always easy, says Melissa Bottroff. But she knows: Time management means everything.
Denise Walsh was one of the first female engineers hired at Henkel Ireland. After 21 years with the company, she is no longer the only woman on the team. However, she encourages young women and girls to choose technical careers.
Community is extremely important for Beata Bogárová and Zuzana Majerčáková. In their free time, the two Henkel employees in Bratislava dedicate themselves to charitable organizations and support people locally in their home city and as far away as Madagascar.
The Schwarzkopf Initiative Million Chances makes it possible for women and girls to have new perspectives. In an interview, the manager of the project, Saskia Schmaus explains why it is a labor of love for her.
There is a longstanding tradition of #StrongWomen at Henkel: In 1911, the year when International Women’s Day was established, the founder’s daughter Emmy Lüps became a Personally Liable Partner in her father’s company at the age of 27. Schwarzkopf also celebrated major brand milestones under the female leadership of Martha Schwarzkopf, the company founder’s widow. And today? Dr. Simone Bagel-Trah, a fifth-generation member of the Henkel family, is the first woman to chair the supervisory board of a DAX-listed corporation
Strong women at Henkel – yesterday and today
Success through diversity
All of these women are representative of the many extraordinary characters who work at Henkel. Their stories show what our company is all about: the diversity and the dedication of its employees. That is what we want to celebrate throughout this series – because we know that strong women make our company stronger.