Life at PepsiCo

Candid Conversations: Celebrating transgender visibility

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To be visible is to be vulnerable. And know this: There is power in vulnerability.

At PepsiCo, we acknowledge and celebrate the level of trust that visibility requires. That’s especially true for our transgender and nonbinary family, friends and colleagues.
We also know that living openly and authentically has historically come with great risk. And too often, it still does.

Without the bravery of advocates like Marsha P. Johnson, we would not have experienced culture-changing activism after Stonewall. And without this culture-changing activism, Rachel Levine might not have become the first openly transgender U.S. official in 2021, who stated, “I will not be the last.” Countless individuals have led us to where we are today.

No one should have to risk their physical or emotional safety to be who they are. That’s why our goal is to constantly champion, build and evolve our inclusive community.

At PepsiCo, we aim to empower our trans associates and family members by giving them the space to be themselves. We offer comprehensive and market-leading transgender benefits and safe spaces, such as EQUAL, an employee resource group (ERG) for LGBTQ+ associates. We believe that when humans can openly be who they are, great things can happen.

Here, Becky Sawtelle, CFO Global R&D and the mother of two transgender children, talks about the importance of allyship.

Tell us a little about yourself. Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Becky Sawtelle. I am a CFO of global R&D at PepsiCo. I’ve been with PepsiCo for 33 years. I’m also a working mother of two children — Olive, 24, and Andy, 22. Olive is my creative child. She’s incredibly passionate and engaging. Andy is very smart. She’s very thoughtful in that she thinks about other people. Both of my children are very independent. I’m proud of the fact that they really know how to take care of themselves. They put themselves first and form great connections with people. They’re just good, well-rounded humans.

You’ve chosen to be vocal about the trans experience because of your children. Can you tell us what allyship means to you?

It’s important for allies to step up. In general, trans people need more voices of support. There’s so much misunderstanding out there about LGBTQ+ individuals and especially about transgender people in general. We see this politically and socially. I look at my own children and wonder what it would mean if they weren’t able to freely come out and be their true selves. I think it would be devastating. It would be so detrimental to their mental health.

Speaking of mental health, can you speak to PepsiCo’s holistic benefits?

PepsiCo’s benefits have helped support us through this journey. My kids have fully leveraged our medical benefits throughout their transitions, which includes medications plus all of their visits to doctors and therapists. And we’ve gotten good use out of our mental health benefits as well — there was a mental health hotline that we were able to use to help us find an in-network therapist for my oldest child. This therapist had some experience with transgender young adults, and that was super helpful.

Coming out is a journey for individuals and their loved ones. Did you lean on organizations for guidance as your children felt the confidence to authentically be who they are?

Both of my kids came out around the same time. At first, my husband and I were shocked. But the more we engaged in dialogue, the more sense it made. EQUAL, a PepsiCo ERG for LGBTQ+ people and their allies, has been an amazing resource for me. As a parent of two trans kids, I really had a lot to learn.

What have you learned?

I’ve attended a lot of virtual sessions that cover what different words mean. What does it mean to be nonbinary? What does it mean to be cisgender? Some of these are words that I may not have been that familiar with. There have been sessions about things like how to be a good ally, how to be supportive, why it’s important to trans people to use the right pronouns and what it does when you don’t. I also found legal sessions that help trans people navigate the legal challenges of changing your name or changing your identity on legal documents. There were also sessions teaching the LGBTQ+ community how to go about starting a family.

What does Transgender Day of Visibility mean to you?

It’s about acknowledging and seeing trans people for who they are. As a parent, it’s so important for me to know that my kids can be their true selves and live their full lives, feeling comfortable, confident and successful, and know that the world sees them the way they see themselves.

What has it been like to see your children become who they are?

Watching my children go through this journey of coming out as trans, I have seen them grow into that peace and that confidence that they have in themselves. I see that they have a community. They have a network. They feel supported. And you can see it in their faces, in their actions and in their successes. And there’s nothing more important to a parent than seeing your children thrive and be happy and successful.

Candid Conversations is an ongoing series about identity and workplace culture.