Diversity and inclusion are key values that produce positive outcomes. At PepsiCo, they help leaders understand marketplace and workforce trends. We find that linking diversity and inclusion to our business strategies results in a rich tapestry of resources and value, enhancing performance, productivity and – best of all – improving customer satisfaction.
Yet our mission is not yet accomplished. Throughout the business world, there lurks an unfortunate truth: African-Americans remain under-represented in senior-level management.
So, as I write this blog entry today, in the middle of Black History Month, I want to address my message specifically to the young and promising African-American executives in our company. Step up. Step out. Strive to earn a position in the higher echelons of our company. We need you.
You’re at the right place to do it. PepsiCo has a proud history of leadership and firsts in terms of diverse senior management. In the 1940s, PepsiCo was the first company to grant a franchise to people of color and to engage in multicultural marketing. In 1962, PepsiCo founder Donald M. Kendall recognized Harvey C. Russell’s talent and performance and transformed him into a legend: the first African-American vice president of any major company in the U.S.
Each of these firsts required all PepsiCo leaders at the time to be thoughtful, courageous and bold. I can assure you from my own personal experience – they remain so today.
Mr. Russell earned his position. And when I implore you to earn your position, I mean exactly that. You must earn it. Here is some advice on how you can go about it.
In any organization, exemplary performance is a given, of course. Do your work with passion, brilliance, creativity and integrity. One of the things I love about PepsiCo is that we are a meritocracy where you are judged by the value you create.
Then, with exemplary performance covered, consider another thing you need to do. Find a mentor. Find someone who believes in you and can help nurture the growth of your career.
In corporate America, as in any form of society, there are written rules and there are unwritten rules. The unwritten rules are learned through keen listening, experience and trial and error. In a world of hidden meaning, a mentor helps you maneuver through the unknown. This is something I have learned from experience…and now I am teaching it to you.
In my own career, the best mentors helped me navigate the organization and understand its subtleties. Their help has been and remains invaluable.
So how does one go about finding a mentor? It’s really quite simple: put yourself in a position to have high quality interactions with potential mentors. Stand up and stand out. Get involved, ask questions and volunteer to help. You’ll be chosen because you stand out. And as your career develops, don’t forget your obligation to pay it forward. Become a resource for another in need of mentoring. When you go through the door of opportunity, leave it open for them to follow.
So as we celebrate Black History Month together, I close where I started, addressing my plea to the young and promising African-American executives in our company. Now is your time, you are our emerging leaders. Do what it takes to succeed, and you can fundamentally change the face of senior management and of PepsiCo itself. This is our legacy.