Stepping up for diversity
Equal opportunity advice from the WernerCo president.
Angie Sheehan, president of WernerCo’s North American division has given some thought to what it takes to climb the rungs of industry success. And like many other female leaders in the hardware and building supply industry, her career advice applies equally to men and women.
In short: Never stop learning. Focus on the task or person in front of you. From there, the career ahead of you will take care of itself
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily a novel idea,” Sheehan told HBSDealer. “But I will tell you that’s the way I’ve looked at every job. You dive in. You figure out how the business works. You ask a kajillion questions. You learn by doing, and then you make an impact. The goal isn’t to make a name for yourself, but to improve the organization.
“Generally speaking, people that I’ve seen achieve success have never really thought about it. Because every day they come to work and they’re focused on making the biggest impact in the role they have and bringing people together.”
Sheehan joined WernerCo in November of 2018, after rising up the ranks at Newell Rubbermaid, where she was director, customer supply chain; and ITW’s Renovation/Remodeling division, where she was VP and general manager. One of her goals at WernerCo — whose brands include Werner ladders, Knaack jobsite storage and Green Bull climbing equipment — is to foster a high-performance, results-driven culture. And that’s where diversity comes into play.
“We are taking steps,” she said. “And believe me, we still have a lot of work to do, but we want people to see that there are some things happening here from a leadership perspective and from a diversity perspective.”
And just to be clear, there’s a profit-driven business-case behind the diversity concept. Numerous reputable studies connect diverse leadership teams to enhanced top and bottom line performance. “And that success comes from looking at the business from multiple perspectives,” she said. If you don’t have diverse backgrounds and diverse ways of looking at situations and how to address problems or challenges, then you come up with the same idea every time.”
Recruitment can be a game changer, she said.
“One of the things that we’re really looking at is casting a wider net,” she said. “You can’t keep fishing out of the same pond, especially in this industry if you want to recruit diverse leaders,”
“I’m a believer in really being intentional about making sure you have seen a diverse slate of final candidates before making a final offer,” she said. “And if some people say, ‘Well, diverse candidate don’t apply for this job.” So, then, you’ve got to find them.”
“There’s definitely an opportunity in our industry to improve or to increase the level of diversity,” she said. “There’s no question. We have a lot of work to do, particularly in top levels and leadership roles.”
At the same time, WernerCo’s pro-focused customer base is changing. And the company, she says, will benefit by keeping pace.
“We’re seeing a lot more females get into the trades, and we are definitely seeing that the end user is getting more diverse,” she said. “They’re safety directors. They’re project construction managers. And our products and the way that we represent our company should match our customers,”
“And we’ve got to be really intentional about how we get there.”
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