When Jennifer Hamann went to college, she intended to be a fashion merchandising major—but she soon realized that it wasn’t for her.
“At the time, fashion merchandising was a combination of business and home economics,” said Hamann. “When I found out I had to sew, I dropped out.”
Instead, she pivoted to finance, which set her on the path to her current position as executive vice president and chief financial officer at Union Pacific Railroad. She was recently honored by the Manufacturing Institute—the NAM’s 501(c)(3) workforce development and education affiliate—with a Women MAKE Award, recognizing outstanding women working in the manufacturing industry.
A flexible career: When Hamann reflects on her time at Union Pacific, she sees flexibility and a willingness to try new things as a consistent theme—as when she shifted from a position on the audit staff to a role in human resources.
- “The thing that I think is a great selling point about Union Pacific is that you can still get your paycheck from the same company, but you can make wholesale career changes over the course of your career,” said Hamann.
- “I’ve done that. … I’ve taken on roles that were totally different than what I had gone to school for, or what I started doing when I came to Union Pacific. And I think that’s a real benefit to businesses like ours.”
Serving with pride: According to Hamann, the 161-year-old company’s workforce takes a great deal of pride in what they do and prioritizes a team-centered environment.
- “There’s tremendous pride in the workforce,” said Hamann. “Our tagline is Building America, and that really is how we think of ourselves. Supporting so many parts of America’s economy and so many communities—that pride is a big deal.”
Pushing for diversity: Hamann was previously president and now serves as the executive adviser of Union Pacific’s employee resource group for women called LEAD (which stands for Lead, Educate, Achieve and Develop). The ERG is one of nine at the railroad that helps foster inclusion and cultural awareness by creating networks that develop Union Pacific’s workforce and its culture.
- “One of the focus areas we’ve had as a [LEAD] group over the last several years is really reaching out into our field locations,” said Hamann. “If women can see other women in some of those roles that have been traditionally held by men, that helps give them greater confidence, and it helps in our overall recruiting and retention efforts to bring people into those jobs.”
Building a future: Hamann is proud of the work Union Pacific is doing to attract a diverse workforce, including by offering free college tuition for employees and by stressing pay equity and retention.
- “Not only do I think Union Pacific is a great place to work, but we really want it to be a great place for more women going forward,” said Hamann. “When I think about the future, I’d love to see it be a future where the demographics of Union Pacific reflect the demographics of the country and the communities where we operate.”
The last word: “This is a company with a very supportive culture,” said Hamann. “We value diversity, equity and inclusion. We want people to succeed. We have opportunities to build your network. Give us a try and see what you think.”
More reading: View the full list of this year’s Women MAKE Award Honorees and Emerging Leaders here, and learn more here about the Women MAKE Mentorship Program to help inspire the next generation of female talent.