Newell Rubbermaid’s reorganization of its top executives leaves women and diversity out in the cold

By Maria Saporta

It’s hard to believe.

When Atlanta-based Newell Rubbermaid announced on Friday a major reorganization of its executive team, all the top executives were white males.

Now this is for a consumer-based company that has women as its main customers.

In unveiling its reorganization, the company also announced that Penny McIntyre, who had been head of the company’s consumer group, was leaving to pursue other interests. Two other executives were casualties in the reorganization — Ted Woehrle, chief marketing officer; and Paul Boitmann, chief customer development officer.

McIntyre leaving Newell Rubbermaid is particularly significant. She had been one of three internal candidates considered to become CEO of the Fortune 500 company in 2011. At one point, she was the second highest-paid Newell executive after then-retiring CEO Mark Ketchum, usually a good indicator of who might be the leading internal candidate.

Penny McIntyre

But the job went to Michael Polk, who had been serving on the company’s board and was CEO of Unilever.

Before Friday’s reorganization, McIntyre had led a team of thousands of employees and oversaw half of the company’s business — $3 billion of the company’s $6 billion revenues.

In a statement about McIntyre’s departure, Polk said: “As a result of the structure change, Penny McIntyre (President – Newell Consumer) will leave the company to pursue other opportunities. I wish Penny the best in her future endeavors and thank her for all of her tremendous efforts and accomplishments during her time with Newell Rubbermaid.”

For a complete list of Newell Rubbermaid’s new all white male leadership team, please click on this link.

Newell spokesman David Doolitte did say that the company has several women in key management positions.

“We have strong female leadership in place in key roles throughout the organization,” Doolittle said. “Certainly it is a priority to retain and attract an employee base that mirrors our consumer base.”

Doolittle then went on to acknowledge that “our consumer portfolio is significantly skewed towards females.”

When asked why McIntyre did not fit in with the new reorganization, Doolittle responded: “Penny has done a fantastic job turning around our writing business, putting together our consumer business and helping Newell Rubbermaid reach this point in our transformation. Now, as we write the next chapter, new leaders are coming in to drive the next phase of our transformation.”

McIntyre is not the only executive who brought diversity to the executive team to leave the company. In early September, Juan Figuereo left as Newell’s chief financial officer. He was succeeded by Doug Martin. Then in early October, it was announced that Figuereo was becoming CFO of NII Holdings, a provider of differentiated mobile communications services under the Nextel brand in Latin America. His first day with NII was on Oct. 17.

Another one of the internal candidates for CEO was Jay Gould, president of the Home & Family Group of Newell Rubbermaid. He become president and CEO of American Standard Brands this past January.

And the third internal candidate?

It was William A. Burke III, who was named Newell’s chief operating officer in the reorganization announced on Friday.

It goes without saying, Newell’s reorganization on Friday dealt a blow at efforts to diversify the top executive ranks at the consumer-oriented company.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

There are 8 comments What are your thoughts?

What are your thoughts?