This Fortune 500 Company is Committed to Women’s Advancement—These Five Execs Prove It
PepsiCo doesn’t just have a female CEO at its helm—the company is fully committed to embracing inclusion and promoting female leaders across the globe.
By Hailey Eisen
There is no shortage of companies touting an inclusiveness mandate. In fact, diversity—including the women’s advancement movement—seems to be on nearly everyone’s radar and has been for some time. From recruiting, training, leadership development, and mentorship programs, corporations are working to support a diverse workforce, which includes attracting and retaining talented women.
What sets apart those companies leading the charge in diversity and women’s advancement is how this commitment permeates into the lifeblood of the organization, impacting corporate culture and the way business is conducted.
For PepsiCo Canada, recognized as one of Canada’s top 100 employers, top employers for young people, and best diversity employers in 2016, inclusion isn’t just written into the corporate handbook, it’s lived, breathed, and embraced within all levels of the organization. It doesn’t hurt that at the helm of the global organization is one of the corporate world’s most powerful female leaders, Indra Nooyi. The PepsiCo Chairman and CEO garnered international attention in 2014 when she told The Atlantic that women can’t have it all. Touted for her willingness to speak frankly about women’s advancement and the struggle to balance family and career, Indra’s influence is evident in all aspects of PepsiCo’s corporate culture. Under her leadership the company has made headlines for improving the lives of all female employees.
And it’s not just hearsay; female executives from across the organization are clamouring to share stories of how the organization has supported their career advancement. Here, five senior leaders from Pepsico Foods Canada weigh in on how the company’s culture of inclusion and commitment to developing and sponsoring female leaders has directly impacted not only their career trajectory, but also the way they conduct themselves each and every day.
Senior Director, Controller
Throughout the 12 years Kristina Islic has been with PepsiCo, she’s had three year-long maternity leaves and held six different finance-based positions. “Often people say that maternity leave has held them back in some way. For me, the opposite was true.” With each pregnancy, Kristina was not only encouraged to take the full leave, she returned to a promotion every time within a year of being back. “Maternity leave was a benefit to me, I got to come back to a new experience and prove myself in a new way. After each leave, I came back with a newfound energy.” Kristina credits her champion/mentor with helping her achieve significant career advancement. She believes the key to her success was developing a career plan and a family plan and communicating those with her superiors ensuring alignment. Now that she has three children and holds an executive position, Kristina leverages PepsiCo’s culture of flexibility to achieve balance. “I know when I’ve leaned a little too much into work or a little too much toward home, and as long as you’re open to talking about your priorities, it’s possible to make both work.”
“Maternity leave was a benefit to me, I got to come back to a new experience and prove myself in a new way.”
Senior Director of Marketing, Global Core Brands
Born in Egypt, Shereen Yasseen worked for PepsiCo in global markets including Asia, Africa, and the Middle East (AMEA) before coming to Canada in 2012. “We are a very forward thinking organization when it comes to women’s advancement, says the lead of PepsiCo Canada’s Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN). “The commitment to increase the percentage of women in the workplace extends to all global markets, even those where women face more direct bias and discrimination.” Personally Shereen has benefitted from PepsiCo’s culture of inclusion which promotes flexibility and an open-minded approach to career advancement. “Seven years ago I was offered the role of Regional Innovation Director for PepsiCo Food and Beverages for the Middle East and Africa. The role was based out of Dubai, but we were living in Egypt.” Because she’d already submitted papers to immigrate to Canada and knew her family would be making the move within a few years, she was hesitant to uproot them for this role. When she moved to Canada, PepsiCo AMEA worked with PepsiCo Canada to help Shereen transition to a Marketing position in Canada. “What makes PepsiCo, PepsiCo is that my mentors, sponsors, and manager came to me to see if they could help find a solution. It was a win-win for the organization and for me.”
Senior Director, Foods Procurement
Trudy Lendvai came to PepsiCo after 10 years in the UK working for a Tobacco company, in what she described as a highly male-dominated industry. “There were few executives who were women, and those who did hold executive positions generally didn’t have children,” she recalls. “I didn’t have a role model who had it figured out—someone who was balancing a high level career and children.” Trudy, who has a 9-year-old son, says that when she decided to move home to Canada she found the culture at PepsiCo refreshing. She remembers first meeting Ann-Marie Renaud, VP Supply Chain, and thinking ‘a VP with four children…it can be done!’ “No matter how many great programs PepsiCo offers to support women’s advancement, the greatest value comes from seeing so many women within the organization actually doing it,” she says. “This evidence speaks the loudest.”
“No matter how many great programs PepsiCo offers to support women’s advancement, the greatest value comes from seeing so many women within the organization actually doing it.”
CMO, PepsiCo Foods Canada
Something everyone’s talking about at PepsiCo these days is the idea of ‘bringing your whole self to work.’ But some feel it’s easier said than done. “It takes a real conscious effort for me,” says Christine Kalvenes, who joined the Canadian team in 2014 from the Frito-Lay headquarters in Texas. “It means you can’t partition out parts of yourself—your personality or personal life—when you come into the office.” When Christine assumed the role of CMO, she was focused and determined with the one goal of driving the business forward. Small talk and sharing details of her person life didn’t come naturally. “But in this people-oriented Canadian market, I realized that it’s okay to bring aspects of yourself to work, display photos, and chat about life outside of office. In doing so we create connections which help navigate work-related challenges when they arise.” As a working mom and an executive, Christine is often called upon to talk about her experiences and to share advice. Her experience has taught her a lot about balance and prioritizing—but she admits there’s always more to learn. “I was surprised to find Jason McDonell, the President of PepsiCo Foods Canada, encouraging me to take time off for school concerts and awards ceremonies,” she says. “His insistence that these are things we must prioritize made me feel more willing to take the time and less guilty for asking for it.”
Senior Director, Supply Chain-Western Canada
Sometimes when you work hard and commit yourself to an organization, even if that means moving eight times within an 18 year career, the organization gets the opportunity to reward you for your dedication. For France Poirier, this opportunity came last spring. She had moved her family from Quebec via Peterborough, to take a role in Lethbridge, Alberta. When one of her projects was delayed a year, France used this opportunity to ask the organization for an opportunity. “I had a dream of backpacking with my family for an extended period of time,” she recalls. When they came back to me and said, ‘you’re good to go,’ I was thrilled.” Thanks to the support of her superiors, France took a leave of absence last year for two months and she, her husband, and their three kids backpacked across South America, traveling to eight countries in two months. “It’s good to work with an organization that will help you realize your dreams.” As a mentor, France works to help other professional women realize that it is possible to have a career and build a family. “I advise them not to make their family plans according to business plans. If you’re a great leader, the role will be there for you, even if you take a maternity leave. Working for PepsiCo Canada, I’ve never felt that going on maternity leave or taking the time I needed for my family would put a stop to my career.”