November 08, 2023  

PepsiCo’s women in STEM on paving the way for future leaders

A group of the company’s top female STEM leaders share their advice for building successful careers and the critical steps needed to achieve gender parity at all levels.

“We have a big opportunity — we’re connectors,” says Tara Glasgow, SVP Global Beverages R&D, as she summarizes the way STEM expertise offers a unique way of thinking. But the idea also has big picture implications for STEM leaders in terms of breaking barriers in the workplace — data shows women make up only 27% of the STEM workforce. PepsiCo’s trailblazing women in STEM met for a candid conversation on how to improve those numbers.

Hear from the women who spent their careers in STEM fields and now hold executive roles in the company. They offer advice gained from their experience navigating gender bias, overcoming imposter syndrome and ensuring even more women join their ranks.

Sell your strengths.

“I encourage my team to focus on their strengths because we tend to be self-critical, especially women,” says Vienna Wong, SVP PepsiCo Beverages North America Strategy & Transformation. “Even if we’re doing a great job, we’re always trying to find those three things that are not good enough,” she says. “You’re much better doubling down on your strengths and really running with that.” 

Make allyship part of the conversation.

“Everyone listens to what we as women have to say about each other,” says Karen Jordan PBNA Chief Supply Chain Officer. “Allyship is sometimes being very conscious that even the small things you say matter.” She explains that as a leader, her words can go a long way in opening doors for someone. “People believe in my credibility. It’s an important responsibility.” 

Be bold when you see bias.

“When you see the bias, call people out on it,” Martha Roos, SVP Digital Product Management, says. In her own career, she’s had to stop a colleague who would ask her if she understood technical concepts, when he didn’t ask the same of men in the room. “We have to encourage women to address things like this,” she explains. “Whether it’s embedded benevolent bias or just bias period, we have to tell women they have to address it themselves and stop it.”

Stop aiming for perfection.

The pursuit of perfection is one of the biggest traps for women, explains Tara Glasgow. “Perfection is the enemy of progress. It’s the enemy of growth. It’s the enemy of leadership. It’s the enemy of all things about advancing. Giving that up as a woman can be very difficult.” Her guidance is to free yourself of that burden which will allow for more openness and vulnerability — key qualities for growth.

Embrace risk.

“You have to take risks,” says Athina Kanioura, EVP, Chief Strategy & Transformation Officer. “If you don’t take risks, you always lose.” She explains that when she’s moved out of her comfort zone, it’s paid off.  As executive sponsor of Million Women Mentors for PepsiCo, Athina offers career guidance to young women in STEM fields to empower them in the workplace. “We as females have to believe in ourselves — we have to take risks no matter the consequences.”