By Anna Louie Sussman
PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi recently told an audience at the Aspen Ideas festival that, in her opinion, women could never "have it all."
"You know, stay at home mothering was a full time job. Being a CEO for a company is three full time jobs rolled into one. How can you do justice to all? You can't," she said. As one of only two female CEOs of the 14 beverage companies surveyed (the other is Jennifer Cue of Jones Soda, a relatively tiny operation based out of Seattle with a market cap of $15 million), Nooyi, running the second-largest food and beverage company in the world, is in a position to influence the industry as a whole—influence that it could use.
With few exceptions, the beverage industry at large is not very public about promoting and retaining women. Of the 14 companies, only three publicly disclosed that they offered paid maternity leave, and only Kraft and Unilever provided any more details. The industry’s lack of high-profile women, suggests Mike Weinstein, former CEO of Snapple and chairman of Inov8 Beverage Company, could stem from the fact that beverage bottling was traditionally a male-dominated, blue-collar job.
PepsiCo offers adoption assistance and help with child and elder care, but the details of its support programs are unclear. Meanwhile, in 2007, soda rival The Coca Cola Company launched a Women’s Leadership Council, dedicated to recruiting and developing a pipeline of female leaders. The Council later promoted variable work hours throughout the company, recognizing that without flexible working arrangements, it will be a challenge to retain its female talent.
The beverage industry fares better with board membership: only two companies lack any women on their board, and all but three have proportions that top the Fortune 500 average of 16 percent. Unilever, Dr. Pepper, and Campbell Soup Company lead the pack, with 33 to 36 percent apiece. Kraft and Green Mountain Coffee also boast 43 and 37 percent female managers respectively.
"Any company with half a brain in 2014 is thinking about women and minorities," said Weinstein. "I guarantee you, every single one of them has metrics in the human resources department. Everyone would like to have more women and more minorities, but there’s a limited force out there, so the good people get bid up."
Anna Louie Sussman is a business and economics reporter based in New York.She has a Master's in Human Rights from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a Master's in Business and Economics Reporting from New York University.