Cheers Go Up for Ilham Kadri

September 4, 2019
Diversity & Inclusion - article

Diversity gets an opportunity to take hold at a leading chemical producer. Read on as we explain why we will cheer on Dr. Kadri.

The last few months have seen articles touting the “changing of the guard” in the leadership of European chemical companies. Honestly, though, it was hard to get excited about these “changes,” let alone recognize them as such. It felt more like a game of old guard musical C-suite chairs. Existing CCO takes over as CEO. Twelve-year Board member asked to take the helm. Largest business unit leader promoted to CEO. And the issues being tackled were equally recognizable. Do we need a scientist or business leader at the helm? Should we be bold and get rid of our executive only elevators? (I am not making this up. This was one of the “changes” being touted as revolutionary and, sadly, perhaps it is).

Then last week – from a totally unexpected source – Belgium-based Solvay made a bold announcement that is truly worthy of being heralded as a “changing of the guard.” It can even be categorized as a jaw-dropping, seismic event in an industry that continues to cling to an old-guard leadership formula that is covered in predictability and dust. Effective March 1, 2019, Dr. Ilham Kadri will be Solvay’s new CEO. Dr. Kadri is a respected PhD-level scientist and proven turn-around C-suite business leader. She will join Solvay from her role as CEO and President of Diversey, a U.S. based hygiene technology and services company, which under Kadri’s leadership since 2013 has experienced financial turn-around, carve-out and divestment to a private equity fund. Her CV includes leadership roles at top multinational companies like Shell-Basell, UCB-Cytec, Huntsman and Dow Chemicals, and she has lived and/or worked in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

At Borderless, we literally cheered when we read about Dr. Kadri’s appointment.  We cheered because Dr. Kadri has the type of educational and professional CV we value at Borderless. Her CV is stuffed with business results and successes, employee respect and engagement, and social impact awareness and action. She stands out as the type of impressive “Borderless” leader that we believe is needed for companies across the chemical value chain to be competitive in today’s diverse and complex business and market environment.  We also cheered because Solvay, which embraced a women-in-leadership initiative a few years ago, has obviously taken a substantive approach to this initiative and did not let the usual conservative thinking get in the way of recognizing and attracting an innovative and thoughtful business leader.  We look forward to welcoming Dr. Kadri to Belgium and watching her in action at Solvay.

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