At CLR we are lucky to be headquartered in Berlin. It is not only one of the most fascinating and vivid cities in the world and a center of the newest, most exciting developments in science and technology – the city state of Berlin is also one of the two federal states of Germany where the International Women’s Day is a public holiday.
The International Women’s Day on March 8th was established by the UN in 1975 to raise awareness for gender equality and support women’s participation in all cultural, political and economic discourses and issues. It is a day to celebrate the milestones we have already accomplished and to set goals to build a sustainable future that is worth looking forward to.
As the International Women’s Day is the day we recognize women’s achievements in all areas, we are proud to introduce you to three of our female colleagues from three different departments at CLR. We were curious about their stories and asked them what it is like to work in their specific fields of expertise.
Meet Sabrina John – Head of Research
You are Head of Research at CLR. Why did you choose a career in science?
A lot of young people today do not have a clue how their future professional career will be by the time they graduate from school, but I already knew that I wanted to become a scientist when I was in elementary school. I remember, when I was in third grade my teacher asked us to write an essay on how we imagined our lives to be in thirty years. I remember answering: “I am going to work in a laboratory and travel to international conferences.” Growing up in East Germany this goal seemed fairly unrealistic at that time.
I have always been fascinated by biological mechanisms and how and why they operate the way they do. When I was still in school I was given the opportunity to work on projects together with students and professors of Humboldt University Berlin and since then I have been following that path.
As Head of Research at CLR, I am able to put the hopes I had as a young student into reality.
What do you find most appealing about your profession?
Even after all these years, research is the most fascinating field to me. There will always be a next challenge that requires a new, creative approach and the application of new methods. My job at CLR will never become boring and I believe this is the best thing that could have happened to me in my career.
How do others – your family and friend, but also society – react to your profession?
What a terrible question. Why would anyone be critical of my profession? Generally, people are very interested, but also surprised about the intensity of research that is required for the development of cosmetic products.
How compatible is your work as a scientist with other aspects of your life?
My schedule is determined by our studies and sometimes working at night and on holidays is part of my job, but I find it manageable.
What do you consider challenging about your work?
Of course, it can be quite frustrating when you created a promising extract but cannot prove its efficacy. Positive results just cannot be forced – neither in science nor in other parts of life.
What are you most proud of?
I know, our research is not fundamental enough to win a Nobel Prize (laughs). But I am proud on my publications and especially my approved patents.
What keeps you motivated?
It is always satisfying when a new product gets added to the CLR portfolio after a long development process. When I find my work represented in our products, brochures and presentations it keeps me motivated for our next projects.
What would you change to improve working conditions for women in science?
A good team should be diverse – not necessarily in terms of gender, but in terms of different skill sets, fields of expertise and ways of thinking to enhance efficiency and creativity.
What are your wishes for the future for women working in science and research?
I grew up in East Germany where it was common for women to work as crane operators, mechanical engineers or physicians. Today our society reimposes a certain stereotype on girls again. Most little girls want to be princesses. Toys are often marketed and bought according to gender. It is important to enable children to make their own experiences and find their own interest. Parents can help by buying technical toys for girls, too. But the formative influence from environment, peers, kindergarten and schools is strong. I don’t expect society to change by itself. Parents have to act responsibly as well.
And we need to raise recognition for women’s inventions, discoveries and general achievements in school, media and society to make it more obvious that women are just as resourceful, smart and successful as men.
Thank you, Sabrina.
Meet Elvira Ruppel – International Technical Sales Manager
Elvira, how did your career path lead you to work at CLR?
I always dreamt of getting a university degree and working in the industry afterwards. I have a Bachelor Degree in Life Science Technologies with study focus on Technology of Cosmetics and Detergents after starting out in pharma commerce and working as a certified cosmetician.
At CLR my first job was in the applications laboratory and I subsequently moved on to work as International Technical Sales Manager today. Many of my career steps just came to me by chance, but everything fell into place at CLR.
Do you think your job is generally considered a typically male profession?
Sales used to be a male domain, but this has changed considerably nowadays.
What do you love most about your job?
I have a strong affinity for science and for cosmetics. And I love to travel. I get to see new places, meet interesting people and experience cultural diversity while presenting our high-tech ingredients to customers worldwide.
Many women still consider a healthy work-life-balance one of the biggest challenges in their careers. Have you ever been in a situation where you had to choose between your career and your personal goals?
Fortunately, no, thanks to the strong support of my family on one side and CLR on the other, I am able to have a fulfilling private life without sacrificing my career. But I’m aware that I’m in a privileged position.
Life is a series of decisions – it is important to stay flexible and adaptable.
What are your wishes for the future?
Today women still have to schedule and coordinate their lives more providently than men. For the future I hope for more flexibility and compatibility of family and career – for both, men and women.
Thank you, Elvira.
Meet Nathalia Gruber – Director Marketing and Corporate Communications
How did you become Director Marketing and Corporate Communications at CLR?
When I was younger I wanted to work as a dramaturge in theatre or as an editor in publishing, both are jobs behind the scenes. As a student of German Studies, I worked as an intern in Public Relations and Marketing and after my graduation as freelancer for some magazines.
I started working for CLR as Marketing Assistant in 2008 for what I assumed would be a transitional period for me. But when I discovered how creative and multifaceted my job was, I realized that this job was exactly what I wanted to do. I was appointed Marketing Manager in 2010 and never regretted to stay at CLR. As a Marketing Manager, I suddenly had to lead a team – something I had never striven for before, but I love today. And now I am Director Marketing and Corporate Communications. With this experience, I would really like to encourage girls to have more confidence in themselves and to seize the opportunities that life offers.
What keeps you motivated?
My committed team members who I can always rely on.
Do you ever feel like you are being underestimated or treated differently as a woman?
Not at CLR. But I meet a lot of different people and some of them have a more traditional idea of gender roles. Though, it is less common now than it used to be. Sometimes I feel underestimated but I don’t consider it necessarily a disadvantage.
What are benefits of being a woman in a leading position?
I think women often have great emotional intelligence and social skills, which are essential to successful team work.
Many Women still consider a healthy work-life-balance as one of the biggest challenges in their careers. Do you think it’s harder for women to coordinate their personal and professional goals?
Yes, I think that’s still the case for most women and I am no exception. Resuming my position as Marketing Manager in fulltime after becoming a mother of two was a really challenging period of my life. But thanks to the support of my husband, the day care network in Berlin and CLR, who offered me to work flexible hours and the possibility to work from home office, I was able to cope.
Do you think gender equality is already a reality?
I don’t think men and women are fully equal yet in every aspect of society and some people persist in outdated stereotypes. But at CLR and in marketing generally, yes, women are treated equally. But due to a lack of flexibility in comapnies and a lack of childcare, it is still often more difficult for women to move into management positions.
What developments would you like to see for women in professional life everywhere?
I think the Scandinavian countries are pioneers by providing legal frameworks for flexible working hours. I would like to see fairer work schedule structures so personal and private life become more compatible – not just for women. Working flexible hours needs to be easier for men as well, so parents are able to share work and family time. Expectations would be different and that would certainly facilitate women’s opportunities to get promoted into management positions.
Thank you, Nathalia.