We had the opportunity to interview our WIL Member Despina Anastasiou, Regional President for Dow in Central Europe and President Dow Hellas A.E., an industry leader in advanced materials, industrial intermediates, and plastics businesses delivering a broad range of differentiated technology-based products and solutions to markets such as packaging, infrastructure, and consumer care. Despina is a chemist by training and has been working for Dow for the past 28 years. She is deeply committed in supporting the advancement of women to leadership positions and in creating sustainable communities around the globe.
After completing your PhD thesis on organometallic chemistry, what made you branch out from research and start working for Dow in the private sector?
While working on my PhD thesis, I enjoyed the camaraderie of being part of a research team, but I wanted to branch out from laboratory work, yet still be linked to innovative technology. A friend’s accounts of the diverse opportunities for professional growth he had been exposed to within Dow Chemical (Australia) caught my attention. I approached Dow and joined the company two weeks after I submitted my thesis.
You are an Australian of Greek origin and you have worked in both Asia and Europe. How has your international background and career helped you master your leadership skills?
I started in the technical services for ANZ and after two years, this role was expanded to the Asia-Pacific region. Having a graduate diploma in Japanese language and an understanding of the cultures across Asia Pacific helped me enormously, as did my PhD. In Asia, formal education is highly valued, and although there were not many women in my field at this time, our customers were very receptive to what I had to say.
The reason I joined Dow is because Dow invests in people, and not a day has passed where I haven’t learned something, and something of transferable value – if not about our customers and markets, about my team and myself. My personal motto is to be the best that I can be, and I genuinely believe that when you stop learning, it’s time to go.
I like change. I like challenges and I definitely seek out opportunities and projects with the view to continue developing and growing. My company has been very receptive in supporting this growth, which has enabled me to broaden my skills and ascend to more senior roles in business and market
development, channel and distributor management, sales, marketing and strategy development.
I’ve always gravitated to coaching and mentoring but more recently have formalized this both within Dow and externally, not just for women, but for all; across all education levels with a particular focus on STEM and Leadership skills. In short – none of us turn up to fail, yet not enough effort is allocated to guidance early or when it’s needed most.
The reason I joined Dow is because Dow invests in people,
and not a day has passed where I haven’t learned something,
and something of transferable value.
You have been a WIL member for over three years, and Dow will be supporting our 2018 Annual Gathering in Warsaw; how important do you believe is the promotion of women leadership and how is Dow tackling this matter?
As a proud WIL member, I’m deeply engaged in supporting the advancement of women to leadership positions and regularly join international panel discussions to talk about the importance of promoting gender parity in the workplace. When we respect the diversity of our workplace, we create an inclusive environment where everyone can perform to their highest potential.
At Dow, we are committed to building a vibrant, diverse and talented employee base — investing in each employee’s growth and development as part of Dow's inclusive global community. We value the differing experiences, backgrounds and perspectives our employees bring, and rely on those differences to fuel innovation.
Dow’s strategic focus is to help Dow women grow their skills for today and prepare for the future’s unique market challenges. For more than 20 years, Dow’s Women Innovation Network – one of our eight employee resource groups – has provided a framework for Dow women around the globe to share experiences, find mentors, seek professional development and gain access to senior leadership.
When we respect the diversity of our workplace,
we create an inclusive environment where
everyone can perform to their highest potential.
Apart from gender equality and diversity, how is Dow committing to CSR?
Corporate Social Responsibility is an integral component of Dow's identity. Dow is committed to identifying, understanding and addressing society’s most pressing challenges and determining how the company can help provide solutions to create sustainable communities throughout the world.
As part of this effort, Dow looks for solutions to enable economic development, sustainability, and education that lead to socially healthy and resilient communities, while also supporting and furthering business success, in alignment with the company’s 2025 Sustainability Goals. Dow’s holistic approach promotes relevant, long-term change for communities by engaging in integrated solutions and cross-sector collaborations.
Dow’s Global Citizenship efforts are multi-pronged and focus on education, workforce development, hunger, water resources, substandard housing, energy efficiency, and poor health. Dow focuses these efforts within two strategic commitments: Building the Workforce of Tomorrow and Innovating for Global Solutions.
Through Global Citizenship, Dow puts its commitment to advancing human progress into action. Dow is a catalyst for positive change around the world.
Dow’s Global Citizenship efforts are multi-pronged and focus on education,
workforce development, hunger, water resources,
substandard housing, energy efficiency, and poor health.
If you had to recommend a book or paper to our network what would that be?
I recommend, Carla Harris, “Strategize to Win” and if you cannot make the time to read the book, definitely view the various videos of her talks and especially note her messages on power and “relationship currency”.
Dr Despina Anastasiou is Regional President for Dow in Central Europe. In this role, she is responsible for leading Dow’s operations across the Central European region with a particular focus on exploring and driving business growth. She is a member of Dow’s European Leadership team, the European Women’s Innovation Network and Sustainability Steering teams and a board member for both the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and the Hellenic Association of Chemical Industries.
Despina joined Dow Chemical Australia in 1990 and in the years that followed, she has held diverse roles of increasing responsibility in Market and Account Management, Business Development and Business Leadership across a broad range of products, markets and countries, including a three year assignment in Shanghai China. In late 2013, Despina was named President for Dow Hellas relocating to Athens, Greece with her family and was appointed to her current role of Regional President Dow Central Europe on March 1, 2016.
Despina attended Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and holds a B.Sc. (hons) and a Ph.D. in Chemistry. She also holds a Graduate Diploma in Japanese language from Swinburne University. Despina and her husband Peter live in Athens Greece and have three sons.