One of my favorite things is seeing an intelligent, empowered woman in the workforce! I recently interviewed Jennifer Holzinger, a professional working in Global HR & Employee Communications at The Dow Chemical Company.
Our mission is to empower women one story at a time and our women empowerment interviews are all about sharing stories from amazing women creating change for a better world. In our latest women empowerment interview, Jennifer shares how she became the professional she is today and how she manages to achieve goals in all aspects of her life.
Read on to learn how Jennifer takes leadership in both her career and her personal life. She wants you to know that with the right strategies and mindset, you really can have it all!
Can you tell me about your background?
I graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in public relations. I went into college knowing more about what I didn’t want to do, than specifically what I ultimately did want to do. I found a major that brought together many of my interests and skills – from writing and storytelling to graphic design, web (pre-social media!) and strategy.
In my junior year, I joined Dow, never thinking I’d ultimately end up with a career here. I saw an opportunity to get some good “corporate” experience, although I didn’t really know what that meant at the time. Through Dow, I did a few internships with local agencies but always kept the continuity here. I was hired into a full-time role when I graduated and now I’m going on year 13 with the Company.
How many years have you been working in corporate communications and can you share more about your roles?
I joined Dow in our Michigan Operations site communications team. There, we were accountable for local employee communications, community relations, local media relations and more. During my time there, we worked on a lot of really exciting projects and partnerships including United Way, to the naming of the Dow Event Center and the announcement that a Minor League Baseball would be coming to Midland.
From there, I spent many years in business and marketing communications for a number of Dow’s businesses. Many of these roles were much more global in nature, and opened the opportunity for me to travel the world and learn more about how Dow operates. When Dow was selling a portfolio of businesses, I worked through that transaction and then ultimately for the new Company (Trinseo, formerly Styron) for about two years. That role brought yet another culture shock – the idea that we had the opportunity to create everything from the ground up – from logos and colors to mission statements, websites, culture and values – all very exciting things for a communicator!
Since re-joining Dow in 2012 after the birth of our second son, I have been working in corporate communications… yet another leaf turned over and yet another completely different vantage point of how our company operates. What’s kept me at Dow is exactly this – the idea that I can work for the same company for many years or even decades, yet feel like I’m getting an entirely new career every few years. The possibilities truly seem endless.
What advice would you have for a woman that is interested in going into corporate communications?
The best thing I’ve done for myself over the years is meet as many people as I can and ask as many questions as I can. You truly don’t know what you don’t know – especially in a world as complex as Dow’s. There are very few jobs at Dow that I have applied for or asked for, if any. Each has expanded my career when the opportunity was right for me or for the Company – or hopefully, for both at the same time. Be open to those possibilities – some of my favorite jobs have been the ones I’ve been the most apprehensive going into!
Right now society has a lot of media around women in the work force, pay gap and how men are treated differently. To any woman who is dealing with pay gap or a man undermining them, what advice would you give?
It’s way easier said than done, but you have to speak up for yourself. Don’t be afraid to educate yourself and ask questions. Find friends and mentors who you feel comfortable asking ANYTHING to, but also do so in a more formal setting – through HR and through your supervisor. It’s so nerve-racking to make that phone call or write up that email, but every time I have done so, I have felt a weight lifted from my shoulders as soon as it’s done.
And… I have always been met with openness and honesty. Leaders understand that you have questions. Now, as a leader myself, I see that what seems like a mountain to an individual may not even be visible to their supervisor – and they may never know if you don’t ask.
In addition to your career, you have some other amazing aspects of your life, including being a mother to two adorable boys, riding horses and involvement with United Way. Can you share more about these amazing parts of your life and how they continue to help you grow into the person you want to be?
I do believe there’s a way to live a life where you have “it all” – but you can’t have it all at the same time, and you may not always get as much as you want of one thing or another at the same time. It’s about balance and knowing what’s right, and when it’s right.
My family always comes first, so when I’m considering a new job or a new volunteer opportunity, I have to think of what’s right for us as a unit. Is this something they can participate in? Is it going to disrupt our lives in a positive or negative way? It’s never just for me – I have a husband and two kids – and my decisions impact their lives. It’s so important to me to demonstrate to my kids the importance of giving back.
I prioritize my time, energy and resources with organizations where they can participate alongside me, like United Way. I was part of the formation of a group called Young Leaders United, and eventually went on to lead that Board after a few years. The group was all about inspiring leaders in their 20’s and 30’s to find their passions through philanthropy and/or volunteerism.
I also know that it’s important to save some time and energy for the fun things in life – for me, it’s riding horses and spending time with good friends. Those moments are what allow me to recharge for the rest of what life brings!
To anyone trying to balance being a mom and having a career, what type of advice would you give them?
I think a lot of what I said in #5 resonates with this question. One thing I know I’m NOT good at is asking for help. We have an amazing support system of friends and family around us. Don’t get me wrong – they do a lot to support our family. But, when my kids are around, I like to be the one they turn to. Whether it was diapers and bottles when they were younger, to now being the one taking them to games, practices and helping with homework.
I am truly a better mom because I’m a working mom. I know I’m demonstrating a strong work ethic to them, and I don’t take any moments with them for granted. It can be hard to unplug, but you have to when they’re around. There will always be more time for emails and social media. They help me to disconnect and live in the moment.
What does loving yourself mean to you?
First and foremost it’s knowing what you need – it’s knowing yourself well enough to know what drains your energy and what recharges it. It’s investing in the friends who bring you up, and not the ones who drag you down. It’s having goals and striving for them – but also knowing it will be okay if you don’t meet them all today. It’s just as much as knowing it’s okay to say no than it is trying to please everyone – and being OKAY with your decisions.
In a society where women are working to empower each other, what would you say to your little boys to help them empower women and believe in equality?
I actually hope that the equality conversation is one I never have to have with them. That may not be the reality today, but I want them to see men and women as equals. They see their dad and me contributing equally around the house – we all pitch in with everything, versus having “mom chores” and “dad chores”. They see me, my friends, their aunts and grandparents getting up and going to work every day. They see me standing up for what’s right and not being afraid to voice my opinion. They play on co-ed sports teams. For us, it’s all about leading by example and quickly and strongly shutting down anything that indicates otherwise.