Life at PepsiCo

Here and Now: Pride Around the World

Lively group of 25 men, women, and children outdoors and in rainbow attire celebrating Pride at Pepsi with banners and flags. Lively group of 25 men, women, and children outdoors and in rainbow attire celebrating Pride at Pepsi with banners and flags. | LGBTQ
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Change can only happen when we can be ourselves. That’s why PepsiCo offers employee resource groups, like EQUAL, to help everyone feel accepted and respected. Meet four inspiring associates across the globe who decided to join in and act.

Ben Cooper smiling from his fresh and bright office setting | LGBTQ

Ben Cooper

IT Services Buyer – PepsiCo Europe

Reading, U.K.

You launched EQUAL UK, an employee resource group for LGBTQ+ associates. How did that come about?

In the U.K., roughly 42% of people go back into the closet when they start their career. It’s madness — nobody should have to hide such a huge part of their life! But it’s also understandable if you don’t feel supported. So, in 2017, a colleague of mine and I started having conversations about how to lift, shift and implement EQUAL based on the available framework in the United States. We thought it would be a great way to set up a network so that people could make friends — especially if they moved for work — and help drive an inclusive culture at PepsiCo.

How have you activated EQUAL?

The first thing we did was support local Pride by donating products. We were even named as a sponsor and began to build external networks.

Our first big internal activation at PepsiCo was on Ally Day. The goal was simple: Get as many people as possible to wear rainbow lanyards to show support for the LGBTQ+ community. When you go into a meeting, it’s easy to feel anxious if you’re perceived as being “different.” Will it matter if they know I’m gay? Will they take me seriously? When you go into a room and everyone is wearing a rainbow lanyard, all those anxieties go away. You can be yourself.

We were terrified nobody would wear the lanyards, but it was a fantastic day. Around 97% of our colleagues wore them — and people continued to wear them right up until we all started working from home due to the pandemic.

Around 97% of our colleagues wore the rainbow lanyards — and people continued to wear them.

Ben Cooper

IT Services Buyer – PepsiCo Europe

Over 50 people in rainbow Pepsi EQUAL shirts display Pride banners on the ground floor, winding up the stairs, and across the top floor balcony of the building. | LGBTQ

Are there any other events or efforts you’d like to talk about?

We have a lot of educational sessions, including panel discussions. We’ve had senior leaders from PepsiCo — as well as other businesses — talk about navigating LGBTQ+ identity at work and the role that allies play to support them.

Last year, we set up our trans policy. Obviously, a lot of people assume that they’ve never worked with a trans person. It’s not a conversation that a lot of people have unless someone is actively transitioning. We set this up so anyone going through the process of transitioning can see what support the business will give them. There’s also a structured guide for managers who need it to help their employee’s journey into becoming themselves.

Over the past year, we’ve also launched our LGBTQ+ Mental Health First Aiders. Seventy-nine percent of LGBTQ+ people will face anxiety or depression where work is a cause or factor. We really want to support everyone’s mental health — especially during this time.

What do you like most about working at PepsiCo?

People at PepsiCo are extremely supportive. My managers are my mentors, and they are always asking, What are my career aspirations? What are my personal goals? What do I want from a particular role? They work with you to have a successful career. And I’ve never felt bored!

Anna smiling at a Pride parade holding a big rainbow pinwheel. | LGBTQ

Anna Makowska

Transition Coordinator

Krakow, Poland

How did you arrive at PepsiCo?

I’m still new! I just started last April. We are building a Global Business Services center. I’m part of the transition team that ensures all processes are implemented and done in a timely manner. My team and I are the first point of contact for everyone who joins PepsiCo in Krakow.

Have you joined EQUAL there?

We haven’t fully started an EQUAL chapter, but we’re working on it. We have a diversity and inclusion employee resource group, which I founded. Our diversity and engagement group is hoping to create an EQUAL chapter in Poland that will connect us with co-workers in Warsaw and beyond.

We’re encouraged to take part in employee resource groups, as well as engage in activities that are outside of our daily responsibilities.

Anna Makowska

Transition Coordinator

What’s your favorite part about working at PepsiCo?

I’m someone who loves change. Working on a transition team that evolves the company is a great way for me to grow, professionally and personally. My managers and I connect daily. I love that they’re not just focused on driving traditional business results. We’re encouraged to take part in employee resource groups as well as engage in activities that are outside of our daily responsibilities. Being able to evolve diversity and engagement initiatives is especially significant to me.

Can you talk about how employee resource groups are important on a local level to you?

Regional differences matter for LGBTQ+ people. For example, what’s happening in Poland is different than what’s happening in the United States or Mexico. It’s not uncommon to hear anti-LGBTQ voices in politics or the media in Poland. From my experience, PepsiCo offers a safe space. You don’t fear experiencing overt discrimination at work. You’re respected as a whole person, and you don’t have to hide who you are at work. There isn’t any place for disrespect. You’re able to talk about your experiences openly and authentically.

What can other companies learn from PepsiCo?

A lot of places have diversity as a box to check. It’s a selling point. Even if you have a diverse workforce, it doesn’t mean your company is where it needs to be. Diversity is something you must care for — you have to empower your employees to truly be themselves and to speak their truth without the fear of being reprimanded. Creating a safe space for employees takes work. And when you do the work, you build a better business.

Luzerne smiling in a maroon suit with a rainbow Pride pin. | LGBTQ

Luzerne McAllister II

Director, Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

New York, U.S.

You drive expansion of PepsiCo’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Can you talk about the importance of groups like EQUAL, and how you envision them evolving?

EQUAL is important on several levels. It’s been around roughly 20 years, but it’s grown by leaps and bounds in the last three to four years. After joining PepsiCo, I saw that people’s satisfaction scores were higher when they were involved with employee resource groups. Their engagement scores were better. We decided to double down on ERGs as a strategic area of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). When we want something done in the DE&I team, we engage ERGs to help drive that implementation.

In creating the ERG governance structure, it helped to make ERGs go from being local to national, regional, and in some cases, global. Currently, we have an informal Global EQUAL call where EQUAL chapter leaders from all over the world come together to share information. By the end of this year, we are hoping to formalize this even more by establishing two Global EQUAL co-chairs along with a high-ranking Executive Sponsor.

DE&I has been a passion for you for a long time?

DE&I is what I’ve been doing the longest in my career, but for a long time, I never got a paycheck for it. I started a group in high school that still exists today, and I have founded or run probably 10 groups over the years through different institutions focused on DE&I. The work that did get me a paycheck was in change management. I view myself as not just a human capital strategist, but also a change practitioner. And from that perspective, that’s how I approach getting things done in DE&I here at PepsiCo — the vision and implementation. Sometimes it can take a long time because it’s a huge company. There’s a lot of processes and relationships you have to build and navigate, but I’ve had a great opportunity to just be the intrapreneur that I am.

Leaders everywhere are learning that they need to create and deliver against their DE&I goals as part of their job, not as something that’s nice to have.

Luzerne McAllister II

Director, Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

We’ve collectively experienced a lot of changes over the past year. Do you feel there is a renewed sense of urgency for diversity and inclusion now?

I do. Major companies, including PepsiCo, are focused on it. Companies must put out external D&I reports that show true diversity and engagement initiatives and progress, including commitments around gender equality and equity, and representation of all kinds. Leaders everywhere are learning that they need to create and deliver against DE&I goals as part of their job, not as something that’s nice to have.

How does PepsiCo empower you?

I have a big platform to deliver a message. Unfortunately, this was born out of an awful time. For me personally — as a black, queer man in this role — there was a major pivot of having Pride month after George Floyd’s death. Luckily, it wasn’t as big a pivot compared to other companies. But there was more of a pivot toward awareness of intersectionality and what it means to be a part of two marginalized communities at once. I went from speaking on two panels to something like 12 panels over a three-month period. That allowed me to voice my opinion about my life experience, examining the current climate around race in the United States and around the world while also looking at it through the LGBTQ+ lens.

Mario is wearing a brightly colored pink floral shirt. | LGBTQ

Mario Hernandez Pineda

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Analyst

Mexico City, Mexico

Tell me about your journey at PepsiCo.

Three months after I joined the company, I went to an EQUAL event. I wasn’t even out of the closet. EQUAL helped me through that process. I connected with people I never would have met otherwise, and they helped me feel empowered. No one should feel ashamed or hide who they are at work. EQUAL allows us to be visible within the company, and it helps alleviate unconscious bias one might have toward LGBTQ+ people. It also gives us a voice to our community within the company. Being a part of employee resource groups, like EQUAL, also lets you develop leadership skills. For example, our branch of EQUAL has more than 55 members, so I’ve learned to streamline messaging for large groups of people.

The Human Rights Campaign has designated PepsiCo as one of the best places to work for LGBTQ equality. What do you think about that?

It makes me feel many things. First, it makes me feel proud to work at PepsiCo. It makes me feel proud of the work we’ve done through EQUAL. It’s just nice to have our initiatives recognized externally. It also motivates me. Next year, we want to do more because each year the HRC adds more to the certification process. It’s also a very powerful message for all LGBTQ+ people who might be looking for a job. We’re telling anyone they’re welcome here.

We can be those positive references for everyone — not just for new generations, but for all generations.

Mario Hernandez Pineda

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Analyst

Mario marches at a Pride parade with friends and coworkers holding a giant Pepsico Pride banner as rainbow balloons and flags bounce behind them. | LGBTQ

What can other companies learn from PepsiCo about celebrating diversity and inclusion?

They need to be aware of context. There are regional differences. Something that works in the U.K. might not work in Mexico. It’s important to be aware of that and truly see how diverse we all are. Every context is different, so certain local strategies might not work elsewhere. And again, they need to be aware of unconscious bias: No one wants to reinforce unconscious bias when developing a strategy. Finally, they can listen to employees and involve them in their agenda. That has really worked in Mexico. PepsiCo has really trusted us.

How does diversity and inclusion extend into the other work you do?

We prioritize inclusive marketing projects. Positive references and images in our brands for all people are so important. It allows our consumers to identify with our brands and make them feel seen and heard. All types of people are represented in our campaigns. When I was younger, I don’t remember any brands that talked to me or made me feel that it was OK to be who I am. We can be those positive references for everyone — not just for new generations, but for all generations.