December 05, 2023  

Breaking the silence: How a Deaf associate is promoting inclusion at PepsiCo

See how Dustin Maynard’s advocacy sparked a mindset change and opened the door for more understanding from colleagues.

With every job application he filled out, Dustin Maynard wrestled with a debate. He wanted to be transparent with potential employers. But he also knew that sharing he was Deaf could take him out of the running immediately. “Most people, when they see the word ‘deaf,’ they don’t bother to respond,” Dustin says. “I kept getting rejected.”

Dustin’s experience is all too common: More than 70% of deaf people are underemployed or unemployed. After applying to 450 jobs, Dustin was hired at PepsiCo’s Gatorade facility in Indiana in 2017. And due to his advocacy, he is now one of three deaf or hard of hearing associates on the team. “That’s an amazing thing for our company as a whole,” Dustin says. 

Building an inclusive and equitable work environment for associates with disabilities as well as their caregivers is part of PepsiCo’s mission to foster a workplace where everyone has the opportunity to grow and succeed within the company.

PepsiCo encourages associates to voluntarily self-identify as being a member of a disability community in their employee profile in order to better serve the needs of associates with programming and benefits. Managers are provided disability inclusion training and the EnAble Employee Resource Group offers support for the disability community.

For these programs and more, PepsiCo was recognized as a Best Place to Work by Disability:IN’s 2023 Disability Equality Index, which measures the actions a company takes to achieve disability inclusion. This week, PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Ramon Laguarta signed Disability:IN’s CEO Letter on Disability Inclusion, publicly committing to benchmark the company’s disability inclusion journey. This pledge is another important step in the company’s pep+ (PepsiCo Positive) transformation to drive positive change for the planet and people.

The “You Belong Here” Disability Awareness video campaign has shed light on the unique journeys of several PepsiCo associates with different abilities, including Dustin, whose story will be screened at Sundance Film Festival’s Brand Storytelling event in January. Watch the video above to see how hiring one associate sparked a mindset change and opened the door for more inclusion.