President and CEO, Newell Rubbermaid
Corporate Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia
Primary Business: Global marketer of consumer and commercial products
Revenues: $5.8 billion
2011 CEO in Action
For the past five years, I’ve been working to build a new culture and business model at Newell Rubbermaid. Inclusion and diversity have been a key part of that transformation.
Our vision is to be a company of “Brands that Matter” to consumers around the globe. My four decades in consumer products has taught me that to truly connect with your target consumer, you must do everything you can to understand them and empathize with them. You will do this most successfully if you have an employee base that mirrors the diversity of your consumer base.
That’s why our board of directors and I have been pushing our organization to develop a more robust inclusion and diversity program. The more diversity our employees bring to the table—whether it is gender, lifestyle, ethnicity, societal norms or geographic origin—the greater the opportunity for us to understand and connect with like-minded consumers. That cultural competence has helped us innovate better products, build our brands and grow sales. That’s a strong business case.
The other benefit of developing a more inclusive, diverse workplace is how it has strengthened our company’s culture. We want every Newell Rubbermaid employee to be able to bring their whole self to work, so they can contribute to their utmost potential. In an environment where differences are not just respected, but celebrated, this gives us a powerful boost to morale, productivity and career growth.
The appeal of a company’s culture is not just internal. It also enables a company to more easily recruit and retain new talent. This has been vitally important as we work to build new capabilities in the areas of marketing and innovation. When a prospective employee looks around and sees diversity in our hallways, they know we are a company that is welcoming and open to new ideas. They realize there will be fewer barriers to success and their creativity will be embraced. This is especially important to the new generation of younger employees who are more multicultural than ever before.
True, inclusion and diversity’s impact on culture is hard to measure. But I believe a company’s culture is ultimately more important than its strategy over time. Without the right culture, the best strategies are doomed to failure.
Over my 40-year career, I have seen and supported integration in the workplace, first with women, followed by racial integration and the broader notion of inclusion and diversity. Today, we are leveraging inclusion and diversity to strengthen our culture and change the very way that work gets done. The business and human benefits are clear. In today’s global economy, they are essential.
Education: Cornell University, BS, Industrial Engineering
First Job: Manufacturing shift supervisor for Procter & Gamble
What I’m Reading: The Summer of 1787, by David Stewart
My Philosophy: Put your full self into everything you do.
Best Advice: Actions speak louder than words.
Family: Married, two grown children
Interests: Travel, cycling and golf
Favorite Charity: United Way