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Engineering With a Passion for Sustainability and People

“I want to make the world a better place.” – Renita Dixon, Senior Sustainability & Product Stewardship Engineer at ITW

Not Your Average Engineer 

My mother, Lillian Dixon, was my greatest influencer and role model. She taught me to be resilient, resourceful, how to stand up for myself, but also admit when I am wrong. She would freely hand out her words of wisdom – what we called “Lillian-isms” – and one always stood out: “When you don’t feel like doing it, is when you have to do it.”  What she meant was in those times when it is most difficult, you must work your hardest.  

I took what my mother taught me to heart when I started my career as a Co-Op Engineer working for ITW Spiroid, a custom gear, gear box and linear actuator company. My duties included drafting, product testing and supporting the engineering and quality departments. I worked my hardest, alternating work and taking classes. After graduating, I was offered the position of Design Engineer. I had the opportunity to work with customers in aerospace, automotive, medical, defense and robotics. At that time, it was suggested that I consider taking some business classes, possibly pursuing an MBA. But my only exposure to business women and men came from a glimpse of them from afar or from television, and the picture did not appeal to me. Still, I knew that I did not want to be your average engineer. I wanted more and understanding business would open doors for me. I had to find a path on my own terms and in a way that would allow me to bring my heart, my whole self, to work. 

As a little girl, my first exposure to environmental justice was the story of Black children on the far southside of Chicago with asthma linked to waste incineration at a nearby facility. I wanted to do something about it, but I did not know what I could do then. More than 20 years later, I learned how I could help. I came across an MBA with a concentration in Sustainable Enterprise. It was perfect for me! I earned a traditional MBA with the bulk of my classes in strategic management and additional courses in sustainability and environmental law. I learned to incorporate social and environmental factors into business. 

From ITW Spiroid, I transitioned to a role at ITW Delpro as a Project Engineer in its headlight adjuster unit and was fortunate to take advantage of ITW’s tuition reimbursement. I was also given the opportunity to pursue my passions, working on the business recycling program and producing a newsletter focused on educating the team on sustainability. 

After I earned my degree, I reached out to the Director of Environmental Health & Safety about a possible role in sustainability and eventually was offered a role as Sustainability & Environmental coordinator at ITW corporate. I have been there ever since. My role continues to evolve, and I feel what I do makes a positive impact on the world – that is what keeps me engaged. 

In my current position as a Senior Sustainability & Product Stewardship Engineer, I manage ITW’s global resource consumption and greenhouse gas inventory, respond to our stakeholders’ (investment community and customers) questions about that inventory, and work with our management team on developing our corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy. My responsibilities also include managing the creation of the annual CSR report and product stewardship.

Pride in ITW’s Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy

ITW’s commitment to CSR is focused around four key elements: our people, our communities, our environment and our governance & ethics. This means we support the employees of ITW, the communities in which we work, the environment, and the strong set of policies that we follow to ensure that our actions are consistent with our values. Committing to CSR helps to ensure that the company is positioned to thrive in a changing world. We operate in a holistic manner – both what we do and how we do it – because taking care of our employees, the environment and communities contributes to our success.  

I am proud to work for ITW and be part of a company that does so much to support sustainability and our communities. Growing up I was encouraged to help those in need, be involved in my community, and appreciate the value of education. Those are the same things that are important to ITW. 

Embracing Diversity and Inclusion at ITW

I am a founding member of Women in Technology (WIT), ITW’s first employee resource group (ERG), which combined with ITW’s Women in Finance to become what is now known as the ITW Women’s Network (IWN). IWN connects me to other women at ITW and we offer each other support in our careers. ITW’s ERGs are important because they truly create a sense of community and embody inclusion.

To me, inclusion means not just being invited in, but being asked to provide input and having it taken seriously. Not only are you on the team, you get to play too, and your teammates want you to play.

ITW continues to increase its commitment to diversity and inclusion. We have more diverse representation in our leadership teams and ITW has several ERGs that help to retain and recruit diverse talent as well as foster an inclusive workplace. I am impressed with the progress we have made, and I am proud to work for a company that cares so much about diversity and inclusion.

Continuing to Pursue My Passions

There is a line in my professional bio that says something like, “I want to make the world a better place.”  People smile when they hear it, but they do not realize that it is what I do. My role makes me want to come to work and keeps me inspired and engaged.

I have thrived at ITW because I have been empowered to take my engineering background and apply it to my passions. My career is unique in that it is not a traditional role for an engineer, but it is uniquely my own and something that ITW has fully supported me in pursuing.

Most importantly, I work with good people with big hearts. ITW is a company that cares, and it shows in everything we do. I feel proud of the impact I have in my role to make the world a little bit of a better place every day.