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Successful, committed, honest: In the #StrongWomen portrait series, Henkel employees tell us their stories

Strong women at Henkel: Extraordinary success stories for International Women’s Day

Strong women at Henkel


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.

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:


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

Open Slideshow Emmy Lüps (geb. Henkel)

1911: Emmy Lüps (née Henkel), daughter of company founder Fritz Henkel, became a personally liable partner in her father's company at the age of 27. Emmy Lüps was a co-shareholder and member of the Supervisory Board (1934-1941) and Advisory Board (1938-1941), contributing significantly to the development of the Henkel plant. During the First World War, she led a 100-bed hospital, which had been set up by the Henkel family to care for wounded soldiers. In 1941, Emmy Lüps died at the age of 57 years.

Open Slideshow

During the First World War, she led a 100-bed hospital, which had been set up by the Henkel family to care for wounded soldiers. In 1941, Emmy Lüps died at the age of 57 years.

Open Slideshow Martha Schwarzkopf, Ehefrau des Unternehmensgründers Hans Schwarzkopf

1921: Martha Schwarzkopf, wife of company founder Hans Schwarzkopf, took over the management of the company after his untimely death. During her time in leading positions in the family business, brand successes such as Schauma, Gliss Kur and Taft were launched. In 1957, Martha Schwarzkopf died at the age of 82.

Open Slideshow Chemo-Technikerin Gerti Brickmann

1964: Henkel employed well-educated women in chemical research and development early on. Significantly, the training of young women in a former classic male domain was set. On our pictures you can see:

1. Gerti Brickmann, who was trained as a chemical technician, was – among other activities – entrusted with the analysis of carboxymethylcellulose (CMC, commonly referred to as relatin) entrusted. CMC or relatin had been in use at Henkel since 1935 and was first produced at the adhesives plant in Holthausen. Relatin is a component of wallpaper pastes, adhesives and detergents. With her detailed analysis of Relatin, Gerti Brickmann contributed to a successful production of a base material which was sold and used by Henkel in over 50 countries worldwide in 1964.

Open Slideshow Elke Möritz

2. Elke Möritz worked as a textile engineer in the research and development of detergents and cleaners. She analyzed the properties of textile fibres and their reception of detergents and thus significantly contributed to the perfecting of Henkel products.

Open Slideshow Evelin Wildemann

3. Evelin Wildemann: The graduate chemist worked for Henkel in Düsseldorf-Holthausen for more than 22 years. First, Evelin Wildemann worked as director of the paper technology laboratory. As of 1972, she was Head of Documentation within the Corporate Department Research and Development and played a key role in various research projects at Henkel.

Open Slideshow

1972: Henkel employee Angela Schultz worked as a volunteer for the human rights organization Amnesty International. Schultz, who was employed as an interpreter for English and French at the Corporate Planning and Development department in Düsseldorf-Holthausen, was a member of Group 101 of Amnesty in Düsseldorf. In her spare time, she helped prisoners who had been arrested for their political or religious beliefs. Her extensive voluntary work included considerable correspondence and research to alleviate the hardships of detention.

Open Slideshow

2009: Simone Bagel-Trah, member of the fifth generation of the Henkel family and great-great-granddaughter of company founder Fritz Henkel sen., succeeded Dipl.-Ing. Albrecht Woeste and became Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board and Shareholders' Committee. She was the first woman to head the supervisory board of a DAX 30 company. In 2015, Simone Bagel-Trah, who holds a doctorate in biology, was awarded as Family Entrepreneur of the Year.

Open Slideshow

2011: Kathrin Menges became a Management Board member of Henkel AG & Co. KgaA with the responsibility for Human Resources and Infrastructure Services – at a time when less than 10 percent of the members of the Management Board of a DAX 30 company were women. Kathrin Menges had joined Henkel in 1999.

Open Slideshow Ágnes Fábián

2018: For the fourth time in a row, Ágnes Fábián, President Henkel Hungary since 2011 and mother of two children, was chosen as one of the most influential women in business in Hungary. She reached the third place in a ranking of the prestigious Hungarian Forbes magazine. Ágnes Fábián has been with Henkel since 1996.

Open Slideshow Nina Dombrowska, President of Henkel Ukraine

2019: For the second time in a row, Nina Dombrowska, President of Henkel Ukraine, was included in the rating of “Top 100 most successful women of Ukraine”. The rating, which is published every year on March 8 by the Novoye Vremya magazine, determines the country's most successful women in politics, government, business, culture and sports. Dombrowska became president of Henkel Ukraine in 2017.


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.