"The woman who cleans your toilet may be saving your life," Ilham Kadri tells me during our 7 a.m. phone interview from her home in south Charlotte.
The link between cleanliness and health is an intensely personal one to the Sealed Air Corp. executive, whose maternal grandmother cleaned homes in her native Morocco. Kadri leads a $2 billion cleaning-products division for the company best known for making Bubble Wrap. She was preparing for what she referred to as another "world tour," a trip to Thailand, Japan and Europe to visit customers, attend trade shows and tour factories. On the road about 200 days a year, she's collected more than 1,200 business cards in her three years with Diversey Care, which Sealed Air bought from Dow Chemical in 2011. "That's my professional a life, and I love it. But I also love coming home to Charlotte."
Kadri is one of about 1,200 Sealed Air employees making the transition from New Jersey to a new headquarters in the Queen City. Sealed Air broke ground last June in the LakePoint Corporate Center, where it employs 595 people. By the time the company finishes moving in next year, the remaining 600 or so will be in place.
Sealed Air divides its business into three segments: food care, product care and Diversey Care. Kadri leads a group that sells chemicals, cleaning equipment, mops and carts, consulting services and, recently, a floor-cleaning robot called Intellibot. The business makes up about 30% of Sealed Air's $7 billion in 2015 revenue.
Caring about people who do the dirty work is a natural extension of Kadri's job that encompasses food safety, facility hygiene, and cleaning and product protection.
But it takes unusual compassion to rally support for housekeeping staff--the people at the bottom of the economic ladder. More than 70% of people who empty trash and clean toilets in commercial buildings are women, and half are illiterate. "I am determined to leave a heritage in our industry of helping women have better career opportunities," she says.
Her empathy stems from her own girlhood in Casablanca, which looked nothing like Bogart and Bergman's Casablanca. "I have a humble past," she says. Her maternal grandmother, who...