Independence, strength, and balance

Paula Jacomo

Head of Human Resources - Latin America

Paula was born into a family of strong women. Her maternal grandfather was killed and her grandmother met the murderer face-to-face and forgave him – but this didn't change the fact that she was left to raise seven children alone. Paula's mother, known to everyone as “Baby,” was the youngest, and continued the family saga of defying imposed standards. In the 1960s, she got married but decided to separate shortly afterwards, while pregnant with Paula. In 1977, when the Divorce Law was finally approved in Brazil, she raced to make official what had, up to then, been a "separation." The father was never a part of their family life.

At the baby clothing manufacturer where she worked, Baby was the first female vendor to be hired, opening the doors to many others thanks to her performance.

She was always bold, a feminist, wanting to
occupy spaces denied to women.

Taking to heart the lesson of being independent above anything else, Paula began working at age 15 and has never stopped. She studied psychology and soon moved in to the corporate world, in human resources, fascinated by the dynamism and diverse profiles presented to her daily. Determined, she has never feared taking a risk, while interpersonal relationships, empathy, and communication are part of her essence.

With working being such a vital part of her life, it's not surprising that she met her husband, Marcelo, at the workplace. They got married in 2000 and, in 2004, Paula gave birth to Lucas. The pace of her work routine increased – to her, family and work have always gone hand in hand.

There is no need to choose between one and the other. I remember my mother, who was always alone with two daughters and still managed to do everything. We never lacked anything.

The relationship between wife and husband is based on shared responsibility. Brazilian society expects women to be kept busy with domestic tasks, but the reality for this couple is a whole lot different. Both have made professional and personal sacrifices, and they have always been there to support each other. For a while, Paula recalls, her husband had to concede more in his career: soon after their son was born, it was as though she had to prove to the job market that being a mother wouldn't reduce her productivity – something men don't have to worry about.

If a man's telephone rings during a meeting and he stops to answer, everyone thinks it's wonderful and sees him as dedicated. If it happens to a woman, it's not the same.

Nowadays, Paula believes that the secret lies in reaching a balance among the different aspects of life, and she has learned this over time. When her mother was diagnosed with lymphoma, she managed her time to be able to care for her. “In life, you need to gauge how much difference you being there actually makes, and you learn that with age. The most important thing is not to victimize or blame yourself. You must be aware of what you’re giving up,” she states.

Her mother didn't make it through, but Paula made good use of the chance to spend time with her. This, obviously, didn't make the loss any easier. The relationship between Paula, her sister, and their mother had always been very strong.

From a young age, if she had an important presentation at school, Paula would imagine Baby in the audience, and this still works out for her at her job. It was through her mother that she learned to connect with people and respect diversity, which would become her two passions – and which, today, are part of her responsibilities at SAP, as the head of Human Resources for Latin America.

Since she began working, Paula has always been involved in activities usually dominated by men. As she advanced in her career, she noticed the lack of women in management positions. And that's why, today, she is striving to change this reality. Even though there is a lot more equality than when she got her first job, she knows there is still a long road ahead. Paula say's:

I work for a company that champions diversity, I have a husband that supports me and wants me to succeed, and a son that admires my career. I know I am in a privileged situation and that, unfortunately, it still doesn't reflect what most women go through.

Respect for diversity is also a pillar of Lucas' education. From an early age, he has understood the importance of gender equity, he speaks about racism and homophobia and is shocked by acts of prejudice. His stance is an inspiration to those who wish the fight for equal rights is continued by future generations.

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