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Women's History Month

Profiles in Leadership

Crary, JoAnn

JoAnn Crary

President, Saginaw Future Inc./Trustee, SVSU Board of Control


1. What is your name and profession?

JoAnn Crary
President, Saginaw Future Inc.  (SFI is a non-profit economic development organization with a mission of advancing economic growth in Saginaw County)

Trustee, SVSU Board of Control

2. What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

Women’s History Month is a time to recognize the achievements and impact of women who have come before us and those who continue to make a difference.  It’s so important to reflect on the sacrifices that were made by others so that we benefit from the opportunities in front of us today.  

3. As a woman, in what ways have you struggled to get to where you are today and how did you overcome those struggles?

I came from a large family, with a lot of love, but very limited resources.  I worked my way through college, with two part time jobs and a full schedule of college credits and still had a student loan to pay off when I graduated.  Finding a job was very difficult after graduation, but with a student loan due, I took a temporary position while continuing to look for my dream job. I worked as hard as I could and took every advantage of training and education to become an expert in my industry. An opportunity presented itself and I jumped in with both feet.  My profession was dominated by older white men, and it was challenging for a young woman to be taken seriously. I respected them and learned from their expertise and wisdom, but also had to navigate some pretty uncomfortable situations.  I think most importantly, is that I remained true to myself and my values of putting God and family first and working hard throughout my career.

4. What advice do you have for young women who are aspiring to follow their dreams?

Take some time to “live your life backwards” and imagine your best life.  As you look at your “end goal”, what are the moves you need to make to reach these goals?   Our time is not promised!  At the end of life, many people have “what if” regrets. Don’t be one of them. What is the worst thing that can happen? You have a chance to follow your dream today, so jump in with both feet!

5. As a woman in your position, how have you fought for equity in the workplace and for other women?

Many times, women hit a glass ceiling because leaders think that they will have children, prioritize the children over their jobs and miss work because of being a caregiver. I have always believed that family comes first, so bravo to the care-givers, men or women.  If you lead with a family first mantra, your employees are more loyal, they give more and are able to achieve.  Everyone becomes more of a team, because we care about each other and our families.  It’s also critical to provide continuous educational opportunities and pathways for your employees to achieve professional certifications so that they are eligible for promotions.

6. Who was your role model and how did they change your life?

My parents were supportive and encouraging and served as tremendous role models.  They were humble people who worked hard and always put God first, family second followed by community.  They taught me that we are all equal and that I should never feel intimidated or awed by anyone, and at the same time, to treat even the least of our brothers with respect and dignity.  I think that has really molded me into the person I am today.

7. If you could have dinner with any woman figure dead or alive who would you choose and why?

I would have dinner with my Mom.  She died in an auto accident the day after Christmas when I was in my 20’s, so never had a chance to meet my children.  I was too young to really care about my ancestry and there is so much I would ask her about life.

8. What is your hope for the next generation of women and girls?

My hope is that next generation of women and girls are treated equally at home and in the workplace.  That they aspire to be whatever they want, without being judged or raise eyebrows if it’s an untraditional industry/job/profession.

My hope is that the next generation of women and girls are paid the same as male colleagues, work just as hard (but not harder), take an equal amount of time off, have the courage to ask for a promotion and learn to speak up and effectively to use their voice to influence others.

My hope is that the next generation of women and girls remember the sacrifices that were made by those before them and that they remember to give another women/girl a hand up.