Driving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Categories: ISSA, Management, Member Profiles

By Dr. Felicia L. Townsend | February 22, 2021 << Back to Articles Driving Diversity,  Equity, and Inclusion

Diversity, equity, and inclusion have become a priority for many businesses. Employers are working hard to develop more diversification within their companies. Why? Because it is just good business.

As of 2019, women make up 47% of the United States workforce but hold just over one-third of senior management positions. Women of color hold a drastically smaller percentage of these positions: 4.3% for Latinas, 4% for Black women, and 2.5% for Asian women. However, research shows that companies that rank higher in gender diversity outperform competitors by 15%, and those that rank higher in ethnic diversity outperform by 35%. To bridge the gap, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives have become increasingly popular across sectors.

To discover how the industry is working to change this landscape, ISSA Hygieia Network, an ISSA Charities signature program dedicated to advancing and retaining women in the industry, interviewed its Platinum sponsors on their DEI efforts.

Diversity benefits companies and the workforce

Although women hold 52% of U.S. professional-level jobs, they make up only 14.6% of executive officers, with an even smaller percentage for women of color. The commercial cleaning industry’s corporate side has been historically male-dominated, but that’s starting to change. According to cleaning industry leaders, there is far more awareness and progress being made toward diversity, equity, and inclusion than 20 years ago.

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential to the success of all industries and organizations,” said Mike McDermott, Business Unit CEO, Commercial at Newell Brands. “At Newell Brands, and within the commercial business, we’ve seen incredible energy and momentum in our employees as they engage in our DEI initiatives and advance the important, grassroots dialog that is happening across our company.”

McDermott also expressed how Newell has benefitted from incorporating diverse voices into leadership. “As a company and an industry, we benefit from the plethora of diverse voices, opinions, and ideas that drive innovation and generate products and solutions that delight customers and consumers around the world. Simply put, these initiatives make our company stronger, and they provide for a more robust, competitive industry built for the future.”

Diverse leadership has also been shown to increase profitability. Organizations with gender-diverse leadership teams are 21% more likely to outperform the competition.

Paul Budsworth, president, North America at Diversey, explains, “Diverse and inclusive organizations positively impact an organization’s profitability, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement. For Diversey specifically, our employees have shared on numerous occasions that they value companies with an inclusive work environment where different perspectives are valued and encouraged.”

This is especially true for recruitment, with 67% of job seekers reporting that a diverse workplace is an important factor in choosing where to work. Leaders are focused on finding impactful ways to minimize the leadership gap.

Current initiatives to enhance DEI in the cleaning industry

Leaders in the cleaning industry are concerned with implementing effective strategies to create a more diverse workforce and reap the benefits of DEI. For example, Georgia-Pacific is working to develop an inclusive work culture.

“At Georgia-Pacific, we believe that the only way to win the war for talent is to make sure we are committed to advancing women,” Ryan Elwart, chief customer officer at Georgia-Pacific, explained. “Likewise, Diversey has designated metrics to recruit more women candidates for open positions. “We’ve expanded our typical sourcing methods to include regularly partnering with universities and organizations that specifically target diverse candidates,” said Budsworth. “We’ve made it a goal to interview at least one female candidate per open role.”

Newell Brands has also formulated a long-term plan for improving DEI. “Under the leadership of Newell Brands’ new CEO, Ravi Saligram, we’ve taken several steps over the last year to enhance our DEI efforts significantly,” explained McDermott. “We developed a five-year plan that focuses on the areas of work environment, unconscious bias, equity, representation, and marketing/advertising, and our employees are rallying around the actions we’re taking as an organization.”

This five-year plan has already seen results. “Less than a year into Ravi’s tenure, we have quadrupled the number of women who lead our businesses, now representing half of our operating business leadership,” said McDermott.

ISSA Hygieia Network supports DEI

To further enhance DEI in their organizations by providing employees with educational and networking opportunities, Diversey, Georgia-Pacific, and Newell Brands actively support ISSA Hygieia Network.

One key reason Diversey chose to partner with Hygieia Network was to support all industry professionals, including those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Hygieia is important for Diversey because we believe that it is our responsibility to play a role in shaping our industry so that everyone that works in it is proud of the job that they do,” said Budsworth.

Newell has benefited and utilized Hygieia’s numerous resources, such as its webinars and conferences that feature inspiring speakers and explore topics like building professional skill sets, the importance of mentorship, and more. “Hygieia offers fantastic networking opportunities that connect us with others in our industry to benchmark, share best practices, address challenges, find actionable solutions, and harness our collective power,” McDermott explained.

Kim Price, Georgia-Pacific’s vice president of the Sales Force & Distributor Effectiveness Team, has played an active role as a Hygieia Network council member and committee chairwoman for several years. “We recognize there is more that still needs to be done to support the advancement of women, as well as diversity and inclusion, in our industry.”

Coming together as an industry for DEI

ISSA Hygieia Network’s Platinum sponsors recognize numerous opportunities for the industry to enhance DEI collectively. “We want to be the place where the best talent in the industry wants to be, so they can create value for our customers and our company, and in doing so, develop their own potential. We don’t take that for granted. We work hard to create a culture and environment that attracts, rewards, and retains the best talent,” said Price. “In our business, we have one of the highest retention rates of new hires, and we believe it is a result of our commitment to advancing women.”

By working together, the industry can have a more significant impact, both within organizations and the industry. “Hygieia’s mission is critically important to our industry, and the programs and offerings are fantastic,” added McDermott. “If your company is serious about advancing women in the cleaning business, I can’t think of a better organization to join.”

To learn more about the ISSA Hygieia Network, visit


About the Author.

Dr. Felicia L. Townsend is the program director for the ISSA Hygieia Network. She can be reached at [email protected].