Wil Organ had a feeling his unique wedding cake would be a topic of conversation. But he didn’t expect that the conversation would end up giving LGBTQ+ PepsiCo associates a louder voice in Ireland. “Five wheels of cheese stacked on top of
one another,” Wil says, laughing. “I got so many messages about that.”
The wedding “cake” appeared in PepsiCo’s Little Island, Cork, campus newsletter in 2017. The round-up of associate news featured Wil’s wedding announcement to his husband, Patrick, not long after Ireland’s Marriage Equality
referendum passed into law — and marked the first time a same-sex couple appeared in the newsletter. Those messages expressed more than an interest in dessert. Wil felt positivity, support and acceptance. “I think they were reaching out
because they recognized that this was a monumental occasion,” Wil says. “That lit a fire under me to do something more in the fight for equality.”
Wil took action by creating a space where associates could build community and work together to make a difference. In 2019, Wil and two colleagues founded the Ireland chapter of EQUAL, a PepsiCo Employee Resource Group that strives to promote an open
and inclusive work environment for LGBTQ+ associates. The Senior Supplier Quality Assurance Specialist serves as the group’s co-chair, setting agendas and planning events.
Wil (left) and his husband, Patrick, cut the cake at their wedding.
When thinking about how to launch EQUAL in Ireland, Wil took to heart the advice he heard from leaders in the company’s other EQUAL chapters: “Don’t start quietly doing things in the background,” Wil says. “Start loudly and
let people know you exist.”
PepsiCo’s Ally Day celebration, an event to promote support for LGBTQ+ colleagues, gave him the opportunity to capture the attention of a large audience in a powerful way. Wil and the founding EQUAL team passed out hundreds of rainbow-colored lanyards
with the ask that associates wear them for one week. The goal was to create a visual display of the allyship for LGBTQ+ associates present at PepsiCo. “LGBTQ+ people are a minority,” Wil explains. “But if you include our allies,
too, all of a sudden, a minority becomes a majority.”
Four years later, Wil still spots those rainbows throughout the office. “That might seem like a really small thing to a lot of people,” Wil says. “But for a queer person, to be able to see a sea of rainbows, it makes you feel like you
can bring your full, authentic self to work.”
We want to do more than just meet the minimum bar of talent and diversity. We want to be continually raising the bar.
EQUAL’s impact in Ireland has expanded considerably since it first launched. “We’ve exceeded even my wildest expectations,” Wil says. Their planning committee has grown nearly 10 times in size. PepsiCo Ireland is a sponsor of Cork’s
LGBTQ+ Pride Festival, contributing funds, crewing a parade float and hosting family fun day at a local park. EQUAL holds events year-round and has increased its donations to local charities and advocacy groups annually since its inception. Wil has
had opportunities to speak at events as an advisor to other companies looking to start their own ERGs.
EQUAL Ireland’s goal now is to help turn allyship into advocacy. “We’ve heard from people who aren’t members of the LGBTQ+ community who fully support us, but they aren’t sure how to speak on our behalf,” Wil says.
So, last year, the group piloted an online training program designed to educate associates on how they can champion LGBTQ+ equality. The “Ally to Advocate” program includes an online course, Zoom workshops, and suggestions for relevant
books and documentaries that will help associates increase their understanding of the issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community.
“We want to do more than just meet the minimum bar of talent and diversity. We want to be continually raising the bar,” Wil says. “Ultimately, I want PepsiCo to be seen as being one of the best companies in the world for an LGBTQ+ person
to work. Seeing so many passionate people working together within EQUAL to help make that happen fills me with pride.”