Having recently won a fourth term as Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel is considered to be “the most powerful woman in Europe.” It might not surprise you that the most powerful woman in Europe has surrounded herself with a group of strong women who have kept her on pointe, on message, and in power.
This so-called “girl camp,” as The Telegraph describes, is an “entourage of right-hand women who have outsmarted the old boy’s network, and have kept their boss in power through ‘mean girl’ tactics. This secretive group – so private they are rarely photographed – are at the heart of Merkel’s government.”
The girl camp began to form after Merkel was appointed Women’s Minister in Helmut Kohl’s cabinet, with a staff comprised of mostly men. Merkel said, “I need someone who can look after me,” something that makes sense considering the fact that these men most likely treated her with blatant condescension.
Beate Baumann, Merkel’s spokeswoman and chief of staff, is responsible for keeping the German Chancellor front and center. Baumann is one of the people Merkel absolutely trusts – other than her husband – and often takes a hard-edged approach to her work. According to Online Focus, “When Merkel was under pressure during one of her first international conferences, and looked on the verge of tears, Baumann reportedly hissed, ‘Get your act together, woman.’” Merkel obeyed Baumann’s command and pulled herself together for the rest of the conference. Baumann rarely appears in the public eye and almost never takes interview questions.
Baumann, however, is not the only woman in Merkel’s tight-knit circle. Eva Christiansen, an economist and the Chancellor’s media consultant, is said to be responsible for what is referred to as Merkel’s “sound” – her specific manner of speech – which consists of “a lot of pragmatism, data, and facts.” Christiansen adapts Merkel’s sound to accommodate the different viewpoints and thoughts on certain issues. The most recent example of a change in tone happened last year when Merkel adjusted her tone on the refugee crisis.
The German Chancellor even told Spiegel Online that she relies on her staff to tell her when something is not going well. She said, “As chancellor, I am – as it should be – constantly under the microscope from both the public and the media. It is also important to me that my staff tells me openly how they see things. And an additional good indicator is the mood in my own electoral district. When I am there, which happens frequently, no one is particularly excited or impressed anymore to meet the chancellor. People there tell me immediately what is going well and what isn’t.”
Merkel, who, at the beginning of her political career, once crumbled in the face of male criticism, now deflects that very same criticism with humor. She has learned that using humor neutralizes a man’s attempt to disarm her politics, and is said to have once rolled her eyes at Vladimir Putin.
Merkel’s inner circle of women have not only made her a force to be reckoned with but have also helped her turn into the powerful and badass woman she is today.
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