`

2016 WOMAN OF INFLUENCE: Susanne Wasson

U.S. Commercial Leader, Crop Protection Dow AgroSciences

November 3, 2016
wasson-450-bp.jpg
(IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

The top woman in a commercial role in the 9,000-employee agricultural chemical giant, Wasson sits on the president/CEO’s Global Leadership Team and has served as treasurer and chairwoman of the finance committee of the Indiana Humanities board of directors.

Rising up: The Odessa, Texas, native earned a bachelor’s in agricultural economics and accounting from Oklahoma State University and a master’s in agricultural economics from Texas A&M University. She then joined the Indianapolis-based firm, known at the time as DowElanco, for a 26-year run that has included positions in accounting, sales (including sales manager for the UK and Ireland), and marketing.

Career turning point: Taking an international assignment in the UK. “That role allowed me to grow a lot personally and also prepare me for global roles.”

“Made it” moment: When she became the first female global business leader in the Crop Protection Business at Dow. “We’ve made a lot of strides compared to where we were 26 years ago,” she said. “In my current role, I interact [with] and meet a lot of distribution people and there’s never another female in those meetings. We still have a way to go.”

Choosing boards: When approached about the Indiana Humanities Council, she confessed she “had no idea what it really was.” Now she’s a strong advocate for the organization which, she said, “helps you feel more a part of what’s going on.” And with a family in the cattle business, Wasson was a natural for a spot on the FFA Foundation, whose board she will chair beginning in 2018. She is also a past chapter president for P.E.O. (a philanthropic educational organization for women). “A lot of the ladies who receive our scholarships, grants and loans are going back to school after having a family. It’s a great organization.”

Industry challenges: The rhetoric out there is pretty amazing against our products,” she said. “I don’t think people realize we are as highly regulated as the pharmaceuticals industry...We spend $250 million to $300 million to bring a new product to market after 10 to 12 years. But the mom buying groceries doesn’t care about that. She just wants to know the food is safe and healthy. We’ve got to be able to resonate with the mom in the supermarket about why there is no issue with GMOs. Have you ever heard of a person who died from eating a GMO product? But how many have gotten sick eating [at] Chipotle?” She added, “We’re not against organic—we sell a product with an organic certification. But we could never feed the growing population of the world through organic production. We are able to feed the world and keep food prices low by having big technology that is the latest, impacts the environment the least, and helps produce more. And is sustainable.”

Advice for young women in business: “Plan for your future, including being able to articulate your aspirations and strengths,” Wasson said. “Network outside of your main work group. Don’t be afraid to try something outside your area of expertise or your comfort zone.”

Click here for other interviews.

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Recent Articles by Lou Harry

Comments powered by Disqus