Jennifer Stewart’s résumé is enough to make anyone green with envy. Consider her executive roles at renowned organizations such as Ernst & Young and Shell Oil Company, or the numerous honors she has received, including Texas’ Most Powerful and Influential Women Award from The National Diversity Council and the Order of the Coif from the University of Houston Law Center. Yet it’s the intangible characteristics that won’t appear on Stewart’s résumé—a strong vision and desire to achieve more—that have made her not only a successful executive, but also an industry leader.
Off the clock with Jennifer Stewart
Jennifer Stewart has been married for nearly thirty years and has two daughters. Now that they’re grown, Stewart says she loves spending time with her three horses. “I show them
too. I just rode one in a parade this weekend,” she says.
As though she isn’t busy enough, Stewart has even made time to get active through running. Last year, she completed a half marathon. “The best thing was getting to the end of these 13.1 miles,” she says. “I expect to run next year too.”
Since 2010, Stewart has been utilizing her talents to achieve ongoing success at Southwestern Energy, an oil and natural gas company based in Houston, Texas. In January 2016, she was promoted to senior vice president of tax and treasury, a job that was specifically created for her. “I love the company and my original position, where I managed all aspects of federal, foreign, and state income taxes, but I wanted more responsibilities,” Stewart says. “So I kept asking until I was entrusted with them.”
Now on the treasury side, Stewart oversees Southwestern Energy’s cash and liability management, as well as banking relationships. On the financial side, she takes care of budgeting and future planning of the independent energy company, which is the third largest producer of natural gas in the lower forty-eight states. “I wasn’t totally familiar with all of that when I took the position,” she says. “But I love a challenge so I was happy to get it.”
Southwestern Energy has also pledged to be an environmentally friendly company, as Stewart says the company strives to make a positive impact on water, air, and in the community. “We use a lot of fresh water to get natural gas and oil out of the ground, so we have a commitment called Fresh Water Mutual, which means that the company puts back into the ecosystem as much fresh water as we take out of it,” Stewart explains. “We do that through both conservation and innovation, and currently reuse almost all of the water used in completion operations.”
In addition, Southwestern Energy is involved in the Energy Water Initiative, a collaborative effort with oil and natural gas industry members to improve life-cycle water use and management in onshore oil and natural gas exploration and production. Stewart says the company works with a number of national environmental organizations and contributes to projects focused on sustainability and restoration. “An example is our support for the Atlantic Wildlife Institute’s mission to research and learn about the relationship between environmental health and human wellness,” she says.
The company also works with the Nature Conservancy to develop the StreamSmart program, which works to ensure effective sedimentation and erosion control, as well as StreetSmart, which is designed to keep roadways safe. “As for preserving good air quality, we are currently using a science-based approach to reduce methane emissions,” she says.
In addition, Southwestern Energy supports financial and in-kind contributions to social and educational programs. “We are committed to adding value to the communities where we live and work,” she says. “We have established math, science, and technology grants for school districts in the areas where we operate, and we support educational initiatives such as the Arkansas Science and Engineering Fair.”
Having accomplished so much in a relatively short amount of time, Stewart is regularly sought for her advice, especially from women in leadership roles. She makes it clear from the start: there is no such thing as work-life balance. There is a continuum, a spectrum—but never balance. Something is always going to give, and it’s better to accept that, according to Stewart. She also advises everyone to ask for what they want. If one sits back and expects to be given something, they aren’t going to get it. She also tells those seeking advice to avoid excessively apologizing—a habit often exercised unnecessarily by women, she says.
When she isn’t developing eco-friendly initiatives or budget-friendly relationships at Southwestern Energy, Stewart finds ways to make positive contributions to her community. She is on the board for the Northwest Assistance Ministries, a nonprofit community-based social service agency. “It’s a wonderful organization that strives to meet basic human needs, from opening food pantries to offering disaster relief efforts,” she says. “They were very active during the last floods we have here.”
Stewart also actively participates in legislative affairs regarding tax policy issues on the state and federal levels. She currently serves as the chair of the American Exploration & Production Council tax committee, and from 2013 to 2015, Stewart served as the chair of the Marcellus Shale Coalition tax committee.
“I’ve found out that by volunteering and stepping out into these roles, you can make a difference in policy,” Stewart says. “If you care enough to go to Capitol Hill or a state capital and talk to the legislators, they will listen to you. If you can articulate your position in meaningful ways they will pay attention, because they are there to do what is right.”