Marjolein Groeneweg isn't afraid to admit that she's disappointed that females—while making advancements in industry—aren't further along in reaching equality with males in the business sector.
The global marketing director of synthetic rubber for Poland's Synthos S.A. has been in the chemical industry for 24 years, and involved in SR marketing and communications the last three. While her resume may list several companies, that's actually a bit deceptive.
Groeneweg started with Dow in the United Kingdom in plastics sales, later moving to Germany for the firm, working in a business development and marketing role. Dow in 2010 sold off a division that supplied, among other materials, styrene-butadiene latex and synthetic elastomers, and she went with the new entity, initially called Styron L.L.C.
In 2015, however, the Berwyn, Pa.-based company changed its corporate name to Trinseo S.A. When Trinseo sold the synthetic rubber business to Synthos in late 2021, Groeneweg was in a dual role, working both with the SR and engineered plastics units.
She asked Trinseo if, when the deal went through, she could stay with the SR unit and join Synthos, where she is based out of a company office in Frankfurt, Germany.
"I thought it would be a great opportunity and, after all those years, sometimes it's good to have a change," Groeneweg said, adding that she looked forward to being part of something new. "We had to build the new Synthos 2.0 culture. It was something both internally and externally that I very much enjoyed. I also think that my strengths are with that part."
While she very much likes being part of Synthos, as a member of the inaugural Rubber News Women Breaking the Mold honoree class, Groeneweg is sad that females haven't made more gains to this point when compared with their counterparts.
The Synthos executive recently celebrated a milestone birthday, but is disappointed when looking at the state of gender equality now when compared to when she started her career nearly a quarter-century ago.
"I remember when I started working in the industry. I was young. I was as passionate as I am today," Groeneweg said. "I generally felt that by the time I am of the age that I am now all would be equal. There would be no difference between men and women. And that's still not the case."
She said the gap differs depending on the corporate environment you are in, as well as in what country, but there still is not equality in today's business world, including the rubber business.
"Sometimes it makes me feel very sad that we haven't achieved that, what I very naively thought we would do when I started working," she said.
Groeneweg said she's fortunate to come from a family where there were all boys.
"I was the only girl at home in my family environment, which makes it a little bit easier," she said, "but for me I'm getting a little bit more pessimistic that we're able to fill that gap very quickly. That is something that I never thought I would say."
That being said, while Synthos isn't perfect, at the top level she said are a lot of strong females at headquarters who all support each other, which she believes is a little known cultural trait among women from Eastern Europe.
They truly support each other. They will back each other, which is something that is a very nice thing I have experienced over the last 18 months," Groeneweg told Rubber News.
To get things moving in the right direction in terms of attaining equality, she encourages women in the tire and rubber industry to question the status quo, be it in their company or industry associations. It's also important that women open up to each other, to try to see what they can do to effect change.
"It will take very long before we see change. But that's the way it is. I am a little bit negative and I accept that, because I had some higher hopes," Groeneweg said.
Despite those feelings, she definitely isn't without hope. Her only child is an 18-year-old son, and Groeneweg recalled a recent argument he had with a female classmate. The girl was complaining about her mother, who she said in trying to be a success was just trying to show "how masculine" she was.
Groeneweg's son was quick to take umbrage with that.
"He said to her, 'I'm used to women being able to do better things. You don't know my mom. I'm raised by my mom by herself. That's normal for me.'
"That was something where I was so proud," Groeneweg said. "I'm thinking OK, if we raise our sons, especially, but also our daughters, and every time we do a little bit better, we may get there."
Years with company: 24 years
Years in rubber industry: 3 years