The Utah educated women blogs are an effort to shine the spotlight on incredible women around the state, the Utah Women and Leadership Project is selecting one woman per month to be featured here and all of our social media platforms. These inspiring women come from all walks of life. They’re mothers, entrepreneurs, educators, doctors, teachers, students. Their stories here are meant give public recognition for their hard work and provide a relatable story for you, our reader.
This month’s Utah educated women is Jenny McCulloch of Springville, Utah. Jenny’s passion for education started when she was a young student, volunteering in classrooms and preschools for kids with disabilities. Jenny also worked in Title 1 schools as an adult, teaching children with special needs. Upon graduating in 2005 from BYU with a B.S. in Family Life with an emphasis in Human Development, she declared herself retired and became a stay at home mom to her toddler and newborn.
Ten years and two more kids later, Jenny re-entered the workforce as a copywriter and content manager in the marketing department of a private company. Her work focused on social engagement, brand messaging, online and print content development, and writing catalog copy. She is currently learning as much as she can about women’s issues and education on a local and global scale while planning her next move.
UWLP: How did you know or decide your current career path?
Jenny: I had a pretty clear life plan until I was a married, pregnant college student on bed rest, unable to complete the student teaching requirement of my education degree. I changed my major to Family Life and graduated that semester, intending to go to graduate school and sort it out later. Between personal blogging and helping my self-employed husband start his career, writing and marketing had become my qualifications. I took a job with flexible hours that I could work from home. After teaching in some paid or unpaid capacity for over 2 decades, my plan was to start working part-time to get my feet wet and eventually teach full time in my local school district.
UWLP: How have your career passions changed and how did you manage those changes?
Jenny: As Sheryl Sandberg says, “careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.” My favorite part of my job turned out to be connecting with other women and helping them find their voice in the workplace, advocating for better pay and better jobs. I was surprised to realize that I didn’t want to go back to the classroom setting. I want to use marketing and social engagement skills I’ve gained to help teach and advocate for women.
UWLP: Briefly tell us about your life outside school/work
Jenny: I love to read and I love the outdoors, so I like to spend as much time as I can outside reading. My husband and I have 4 active children that we’ve conditioned to think sleeping in the dirt is the best ever. We’re coming off a challenging year for our family, so this school year I’m homeschooling our children so we can spend more time traveling, camping, and creating positive memories while they are still young enough to want to hang out together.
“Make yourself heard and seen. When I was teaching a hard to wrangle class I started wearing a bright lipstick or loud tights so they’d at least get into the habit of looking my direction when I was speaking. The same applies to your work. Figure out how to make yourself seen.”
UWLP: What has your experience been like being a woman/mother in your chosen field?
Jenny: I have had both wonderful and terrible experiences. I had to hide my first pregnancy to get a job working at a school, but once I was there my employers were very supportive as I sorted out my maternity leave. When I began working in marketing, my boss was a woman. She allowed me flexibility and let me bring my preschooler to the office on occasion. I also unfortunately witnessed and experienced overt sexism in the company culture, which negatively affected how I and other women were promoted, compensated, and treated. That experience helped fuel my desire to advocate for women.
UWLP: What advice would you give to women starting out in your same career field?
Jenny: I wish I could give out cat posters with Hamilton song lyrics to inspire and motivate you all! For women graduating in education or the social sciences, get work experience. If you plan on taking a break to raise children, get work experience. I cannot reiterate this enough. It is so much easier to ask for flexibility once you’ve established yourself in some way. Any experience is better than no experience. Network and find a mentor. Take someone to lunch and pick their brain, or tag along to a lunch and soak it all in.
I would also say, don’t undervalue or undersell yourself on resumes or in conversation. You’re more talented and more qualified than you realize, you’re just not in the habit of selling yourself. Do it.
Lastly, make yourself heard and seen. When I was teaching a hard to wrangle class I started wearing a bright lipstick or loud tights so they’d at least get into the habit of looking my direction when I was speaking. The same applies to your work. Figure out how to make yourself seen.
Who inspires you? Submit your nomination for a Utah educated women of the Month here.