"With or without kids,
never become dependent on anyone."
SHE MOVES US Interview with Gudrun Cämmerer, Teamhead Global PR at PUMAJanuary 27, 2022
SHE MOVES US Interview with Gudrun Cämmerer, Teamhead Global PR at PUMAJanuary 27, 2022
As part of our “She Moves Us” interview series, CATch Up spoke to Gudrun Cämmerer, Teamhead Global PR about her career, public relations, stereotypes and naturally female leadership skills.
Gudrun was in PR even before she started studying at university. “Prior to my studies, I did an internship in a PR department in an advertising agency. When the internship ended, I was asked by the client we had who represented a big brand if I wanted to keep working for them as an assistant. I ended up staying with the company for 10 years”. From there, Gudrun worked for other big brands in the PR department in lifestyle, fashion, accessories… “Little by little I made my way up the ladder. I’ve been at PUMA for two and a half years now. At first, I was responsible for Europe and now as part of the global PR team”.
Gudrun didn’t look up to anybody in the PR world, she didn’t have somebody to push her in that direction. Nevertheless, when she started with her first internship, she had a great female boss. She showed her it was possible for her to get where she was. “You have to find what you enjoy doing and then keep going for it until you reach your goal”, that was the message Gudrun got from working with her.
“I never had an idol or a model. I didn’t have anyone putting barriers in front of me either, nobody tried to block me in becoming the business woman I wanted to be”.
Gudrun’s parents were very supportive of her to do whatever felt good. “My parents told me: ‘You have your own mind, you know what you want to do so go for it‘”.
When she was in high-school, Gudrun had different interests such as Literature, Psychology and Arts & Science… “I ended up studying philosophy, psychoanalysis and history which is not common in the PR world. However, I didn’t want to pursue a career in those fields after my university years that’s why I tried to have straight away one foot in the business branch”. In PR, the products and their stories as well as the different brand stories captivated her. What makes a customer buy a product was also of big interest to her.
Gudrun believes what was crucial to her was to start early and to get as much possible work experience to help her further on.
“What I wanted was a job which gave me the possibility to become independent. I will not depend on anyone else. I wanted as soon as possible to earn my own money and have my own income to build my own life”.
Wanting to be independent had an even bigger meaning for Gudrun as a woman. It was always her aim to be independent, to be able to manage things by herself. “It’s great if you have a partner who thinks and functions the same way, someone who wants to be able to stand on their own feet. We are together because we want to be together and not because we are dependent on each other. It is more my romantic ambition to be together and definitely not with the aim of being dependent on someone financially”. Gudrun made clear for her husband they could only be together if he was respectful of this. “It wasn’t easy all the time and it took a lot of give and take. We can feel that in the industry, our culture, in the environment we’re surround by; it is still not a common thing”.
Gudrun can’t stand seeing a lot of women even in her generation still depending or co-depending on their male partners.
“I don’t get it because they are super smart, they have done great at university, sometimes better than their partners. It seems to me that once they had kids, they told themselves that their husband was already further in his career so they should carry on, and all of a sudden the women stays at home. ‘We are family now, so it’s fine to put my career aside…’. For me, children have two parents and I don’t understand why a woman, even if she’s younger, should have to take a step back and why their husband can’t step down and say: ‘I want you to pursue your career, I don’t want to be in the way of it’”.
For Gudrun there is no reason why couples couldn’t find common ground so both can continue to strive, even if it means for men having to wait a bit as well for their loved one to get back in the game. “Then they can be equals. For me it was non-negotiable when I got together with my husband, for sure I would have as much of a career as he did. We women can have it all and as much as men do. Because of my gender I shouldn’t feel that I have to step down at any point in my career”.
“For me equality is a given. I don’t like to be asked how I deal with my family and my career because a man would never be asked such a question. Whether you’re a woman or a man if you have children, you’re supposed to take care of them”.
It’s not because you are a woman that you should be the one to look after them, says Gudrun.
“You shouldn’t feel guilty as a woman if you are the main bread winner and your husband is at home more with the children, or if you decide to have children and a career at the same time”.
“We are equals, I don’t see a difference in the way to work or in smartness between genders…” Gudrun has been lucky, she explains, “I didn’t have to face these types of questions too much because I made it clear I didn’t appreciate being asked about it”. However, she saw some of her female co-workers having to struggle answering those questions. She considers that people, especially women, shouldn’t be judged for their decision to have a career and kids or be asked about it in the first place.
“You know this speech of : ‘Oh, you have two children and you’re working too, I didn’t know… How do you manage it all?!’, you kind of hear the negative criticism that comes with it. When it’s meant in a positive way, I don’t think it’s ok either, because it should be normal and ok to do so”.
Of course the industry could do much more for parents to have a career next to having a family, Gudrun estimates. “I don’t think we can just try to defend our husband or blame only the industry for this. It’s also on us if we let this happen, in my opinion”.
Women should keep true to their dreams, says Gudrun. “I know it’s possible to accomplish whatever you want; to be a mom, still work and manage to grow in a company. I did it so for sure, others can too”.
Family is very important to Gudrun but she also needs to do things for herself, on her own.
“I think you should pursue the other dreams you have next to having a wonderful family. Push your partner to do his part as well. If he doesn’t, go for it anyway, you’re strong, smart and independent”.
Most of her friends studied and had very good grades: “They did a lot of internships, they were even growing to become big in their companies… Then, they put it all aside for their families”. Gudrun felt they lost a bit of themselves because of the choice they made and, in her opinion, they didn’t have to. “Putting your career on hold doesn’t mean you can’t go back to it”.
We can definitely see today that the male perception of their role in the family is changing.
“It’s very positive to see men willing to take on more family duties, some even today decide to be the ones staying at home”.
Gudrun’s husband and herself were very much on the same page when it came to this, for her it would have been a deal breaker if her partner had not agreed to be there too, once they had children. “With our second child he stayed at home while I started going back to work, which I very much appreciated. That doesn’t mean it has always been easy for us to handle everything but we did our utter best to make sure to treat each other equally and take on our part of parenthood”. She says, it’s interesting that he sometimes had a hard time, as well, with people all of a sudden asking him those same types of questions: “’Why are you stepping back?’, ‘Why are you the one staying at home with the kids today?’…”. “It was awkward having to actually explain something that should be the norm. ‘My wife wants to go back to work as well so she did. It’s ok for me to also take a step back so that we can both continue to strive in our career in the long run‘”.
Gudrun thinks it can be different to have a female leader than a male leader. Fashion and lifestyle are still predominantly women-working areas so she always had a lot of fantastic women on her team. “I wouldn’t know if there’s a real difference working with men in that area”. Nevertheless, Gudrun did work in male dominated industries before and she says she could feel the difference at work with a female leadership steering the wheel.
Her perception of it is: “Women are often better at communicating and I would say more open minded. I never felt I wasn’t equal to them, on the contrary of men, women don’t have the tendency or need to build up this male dominating aura, showing that you’re the guy and you are in charge”.
In her point of view, female leaders are usually more approachable too, or at least the ones she worked with, she states. “I always felt recognized in my job with them. We were a team going for the same target. We were supportive of each other. I don’t think a leader should think he’s worth more than others because of his position. The position is different. Not everyone can take his place but he can’t do every single job in the company, either”.
Gudrun is only slightly optimistic about women’s future when it comes to equality.
“Sometimes I think men won’t see or realize that there are so many great minds among the community of women and they don’t treat them properly nor equally because of their own blindness. Being equals make things so much better, it works so much better. It’s good that we are seeing many more women at the heads of companies or in politics…”
“Of course, there are differences but we are all different. And we are very much the same when it comes to managing life overall, we are capable of the same things”, insists Gudrun.
Gudrun admires women achieving things in an environment that is much harder for them than for their male counterparts. “They fought all the obstacles and got recognition”. These women like Simone de Beauvoir, Jane Goodall, Marie Curie were probably Gudrun’s mentors in a way. “These female figures made their way through a male dominating environment; they followed their dreams without submitting to their surroundings”.
Gudrun never saw herself as a mentor so it’s surprising to her that some younger colleagues look up to her, especially when someone says to her they want to be like her or manage their professional or private life the same way she does. One time someone even said to her she liked her strong and determined personality.
It’s really nice for Gudrun to see that being so strong-willed inspires people. “When they are younger women, it makes me even happier. I hope I can continue to inspire younger colleagues, like I got motivated by the two women leaders I had in the companies I worked for previously”.
What Gudrun would like to say to someone else wanting to have a career like hers is to learn by doing:
“Don’t back up even when you are confronted with a difficult situation”. She wants women to bear in mind: “To not accept male domination patterns”. Gudrun explains that she’s been lucky that she is tall and “Guys are usually a bit smaller than me to the point that I sometimes intimidate them a bit. If they don’t treat me equally I look at them in a way that mostly always makes them back down”.
She adds: “Always make sure you are being respected. Remind yourself: A team should have the same aims, targets and goals. So let’s put this whole gender stuff behind us. It doesn’t have a place in our world anymore. In a work environment, what counts is what you are doing and how you are doing it, the rest is irrelevant”.
What Gudrun really wants to make sure of is to encourage women to stick to what they want to do especially career-wise. “With or without kids, never become dependent on anyone”. She also wishes men would take over more responsibility and support the career of their female counterparts. “Overall don’t judge someone by their appearance; look at what they are capable of. Judge people how you would want to be judged or treat people like you would like to be treated and certainly not by gender”.
Finally, let’s set an example for our kids.