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Life at McCormick February 19, 2021

How McCormick’s Director of Supplier Diversity & Supplier Sustainability Advocates for Social Justice

Sheila Dews Johnson; Supplier Diversity; McCormick & Company

 

As McCormick continues to stand for the future of flavor, we remain dedicated to providing the highest quality spices, herbs, seasonings, specialty foods, and flavors. As Sheila Dews-Johnson knows, that means including dynamic, diverse suppliers in our supply chain and recognizing the essential value they bring to the communities we serve. As the Director of Supplier Diversity & Supplier Sustainability, Sheila understands McCormick's initiative and its mission to develop relationships with diverse businesses capable of meeting our high-quality standards. Through her work, she continues to increase the number of diverse suppliers that provide us with products and services. As she experiences time and again, when we increase the number of diverse suppliers with whom we work, we deliver increased success for them and for the Company.

DiversityPlus magazine recently named Sheila to the 2020 Best of the Best Champions of Diversity list for managing McCormick’s Supplier Diversity Program (SDP). The SDP’s efforts are a strategic, economic, and business imperative that anchors our approach to fostering economic growth among diverse communities. Sheila has successfully grown McCormick’s SDP through the development and implementation of multiple inclusion strategies and by leveraging industry best practices. But her 39-year career with McCormick began long before the word “diversity” was as common in business as it is today.

 

Raised in the small town of Lynch Station, Virginia, Sheila couldn’t wait to venture away from home after graduating from high school a year early. Her father was a US veteran, so with financial assistance from the VA, she entered her freshman year at Rutgers University, where she earned a degree in economics with a minor in business. The first in her family to graduate from college, Sheila felt fortunate to have that opportunity and has never forgotten the importance of giving back.

 

“I landed my first job out of college through an advertisement in a local newspaper back home in Virginia. It was for an Accounting Analyst position at Golden West Foods, a subsidiary of McCormick at that time. Although I did not get the job, I was surprised when they encouraged me to apply for a Clerk position in Human Resources. When the Human Resources Manager told me that 60 percent of their workforce was African American, but there was no representation of that in that department, I understood their strategy. So, I began my McCormick career as “a first” and have been doing so ever since,” Sheila shared.

 

Over the next several years, Sheila was promoted and even became the first female Production Supervisor in Golden West Foods. Although she found the position very demanding, she was determined to make it work because she felt she represented women and people of color, and could not fail. “My ability to be fair and impartial was challenged daily, and I learned firsthand that as a manager of people, sometimes you cannot please everyone. After learning the nuts and bolts of manufacturing, working all three shifts, and supervising 60 people, Sheila received her first C.P. McCormick Award for the Production Supervisor role. The C. P. McCormick Award is given to employees who go above and beyond their usual duties to contribute to McCormick’s overall success. They demonstrate Shared Values in delivering high performance results, commitment to a culture of respect, inclusion, and collaboration. Today, Sheila credits that job for her strong manufacturing, production, and management expertise.

 

She was then promoted to a role in Quality Control as a Field Auditor where she visited suppliers, toured their operations, and made recommendations for improvements. “I traveled alone, and without a cellphone, of course, or GPS to states like Alabama and Mississippi that I had never been to before. My experiences then were very different than they would be today,” she explained.

 

Sheila eventually relocated to Maryland when she left Golden West Foods for a Corporate role in the Quality Assistance group, where she conducted manufacturing audits for McCormick facilities in the U.S. and Canada. She was awarded her 2nd C.P. McCormick Award for the auditing program she developed. It was during an audit of the Spice plant that she met her future husband, Gregory Johnson, who recently retired after nearly 45 years of employment with McCormick.

 

She went on to become a Supplier Quality Manager, where she audited suppliers, wrote product specifications, and traveled with buyers. But it was later when she was afforded the opportunity to manage the Small Disadvantaged Business Program in Procurement that her passion for social justice was ignited.

 

“I immediately changed the name of the program to the Supplier Diversity Program, which sounded much more positive,” Sheila recalls. The US Department of Defense required companies to allocate a certain percentage of spend to small disadvantaged businesses,” she explained. At that time, most minority-owned businesses were smaller than their competitors and were often considered insignificant, incompetent, and overall, just not competitive enough. However, Sheila believed that was untrue. In most cases, the smaller suppliers just didn’t know how to navigate the system and connect with the right contacts to gain real consideration. So, she provided that service as part of McCormick’s program. Her efforts gained her a 3rd C.P. McCormick Award. Additionally, she made taking a closer look at McCormick’s supplier base and vetting them for ethical practices, a top priority. “Good corporate citizenship among our suppliers is important because our suppliers are an extension of us,” says Sheila.

 

As her roles in sustainability, responsible sourcing, and supplier diversity evolved, Sheila began seeing the impact the program was making, particularly in underrepresented communities such as minorities, women, LGBTQ+, and veterans. Today, these diverse-owned businesses are succeeding more often because of the cultural competencies built into programs like McCormick’s. This effort aligns with our Diversity & Inclusion goals, that when done right, inclusion can positively impact business results, lead to new market niches, and improve customer service. It also supports our Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Sustainably objective of identifying and supporting global community relations efforts that touch the lives of people in underserved communities.

 

Sheila looks back today and reflects on her 39 years at McCormick – the countless lessons she has learned, challenges she has met, and opportunities she has taken – and considers herself very blessed. Above all, she values working for a company that allows her professional life to mirror her personal life. “McCormick wants to do the right thing for the greater good. They want to improve the quality of life for people – and like me, they are an advocate for social justice,” Sheila says. Outside of work, she makes community service and giving back a priority. Her volunteer work through her sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, with  causes related to senior citizens, March of Dimes, American Heart Association, Alzheimer’s Association, etc. have earned her two McCormick Community Service Awards. Sheila paraphrases Mahatma Gandhi, when she says that she tries to be the change she wants to see in the world. She believes in being part of the solution and pursues diversity and inclusion in all areas of her life. At work and at home, she continuously strives to create a respectful and inclusive culture that celebrates differences – one that recognizes, values, and nurtures everyone. Her role in Supplier Diversity & Supplier Sustainability affords her the opportunity to do that every day.

 

“I stand for the future of flavor by representing the values and ethics inherent to McCormick’s culture and my own belief system,” Sheila states. “I make a positive impact in underserved communities and that gives me a great sense of purpose,” she shares.

 

For more information about Supplier Diversity at McCormick, click here.

 

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