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DEI in Action in Pennsylvania

Across the state, business leaders employ the power of diversity in thought.

By Teree Caruthers on May 25, 2023

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.
Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.

Diversity, equity and inclusion is a central tenet of Pennsylvania – and that principle is reflected in the efforts of the commonwealth’s growing plastics and chemicals industries, where companies such as Air Products and PPG Industries understand that diversity breeds innovation along with increased productivity and business success.

Everyone Belongs and Matters

Air Products, an industrial gas supplier which operates its global headquarters in the Lehigh Valley in Eastern Pennsylvania, was recognized on the Forbes 2022 list of America’s Best Employers for Diversity. For the sixth year in a row, the company also earned a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2022 Corporate Equality Index. The accolades are a testament to its goal of being the most diverse industrial gases company in the world.

“We have a Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) strategy that drives Air Products forward to be a leader in diversity,” says Mindy Fitzgerald, Air Products global director of diversity culture and engagement.

She says the company’s reputation for leadership in diversity is seen through the external recognitions along with active employee resource groups that are a catalyst for growth along the company’s diversity and inclusion journey.

“We lead by ensuring the lived experiences of our diverse population match the intentions of our DIB ambitions. We strive to build a culture where every employee knows they belong and matter,” says Fitzgerald.

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.
Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.

Celebrating Inclusion

As a global company with more than 21,000 employees around the world, Air Products’ success relies on promoting collaboration among people of different cultures and backgrounds, Fitzgerald says.

The company holds two annual signature events – a global Week of Inclusion in May, which provides activities and resources that encourage employees to engage in courageous conversations about diversity and inclusion, and the Inclusion Summit and Awards, which celebrates the impact of the company’s 12 employee resource groups (ERGs), 24 ERG chapters and four Diversity and Inclusion Councils.

“Air Products’ higher purpose is to bring people together to collaborate and innovate solutions to the world’s most significant energy and environmental challenges. To do that, we need diversity of experience, diversity of background and diversity of thought. If everyone at the table comes from the same background and thinks the same, we risk getting stuck in homogeneous ways of work and problem solving.”

Mindy Fitzgerald, Air Products

A Place at the Table

Marvin Mendoza, global head of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) for Pittsburgh-based PPG, agrees.

“Having diverse perspectives helps us develop new products and services for people and businesses who serve diverse customers,” Mendoza says.

When Mendoza joined the company two years ago, the company’s DEI efforts were admirable, albeit on a smaller scale.

“They’d had, for instance, a women’s leadership network and a minority executive council, and they had more recently started an LGBTQ committee, but what they didn’t have was a holistic strategy across diversity, equity and inclusion – a strategy that was data driven, monitored, measured and driven enterprise-wide and also approved by our company’s operating committee and board of directors,” Mendoza says.

After arriving, Mendoza quickly went to work developing a five-year, data-driven strategy that holds top leaders accountable for the progress.

“For us, diversity isn’t the aspect of counting the number of people that you have in any demographic group. Inclusion is making every person count regardless of their demographic group, and equity is understanding and accepting that not everybody has the same opportunity for experiences, so we need to level the playing field so that every person has the chance to advance and succeed.”

Marvin Mendoza, PPG

A Boost for Business

Mendoza says a main reason for the company’s investment in DEI is because DEI is good for business.

“One reason DEI is important is tied to innovation. Another is related to retention and engagement. Both are equally important to the business. Our incoming CEO says our people come first, and without our people, we have no business, so we want to make sure people feel like they have a seat at the table.”

The company conducts an engagement survey twice a year and includes a subset of questions called the Culture of Inclusion Index that it uses to see how its people are feeling about bringing their voice to the table and feeling heard, Mendoza says.

Developing Future Leaders

Hende Azene, global business director for automotive adhesives and sealants at PPG and head of the company’s Black Employee Network, talks about the work she and others are doing to ensure every voice is heard.

Hende Azene

Hende Azene

How would you describe the company’s culture in terms of diversity and inclusion?
Diversity and inclusion are core principles for PPG. We know that diverse teams perform better and to remain competitive in an ever-evolving market, DEI is fundamental to success. The DEI perspective is pervasive at all levels of PPG, and I believe this creates a culture where everyone’s differences can be embraced and leveraged as a unique strength.

How does the company help employees like you feel included?
Our C-suite has shown a clear commitment to DEI, particularly over the last few years. With the support of our global head of DEI, Marvin Mendoza, we have been able to translate intent into action, which works toward ensuring all employees feel included. Some of these actions include rolling out several new employee resource networks (ERNs), supporting these efforts with proper funding and visibility, and integrating DEI strategies into our talent acquisition and development practices. While we still have more work to do, I believe these efforts are already showing tangible results toward better inclusion.

Why is DEI so important for professional development?
Everyone should have the opportunity to do their best in the workplace, and professional development is key to making that happen. How can we possibly identify and develop PPG’s future leaders if we don’t take an objective approach to development with DEI in mind?

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