SNAC launches Women in Snacks network to embrace diversity and inclusion

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Women Pepsico ceo indra Campbell soup company Mondelez Mars incorporated Nestlé Fortune 500 empowerment Hershey Snac International

Only a handful of women lead with world’s largest companies. Fortune 500 lists 20 in the position of CEO – actually, now 18 following the departure of PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi and Campbell Soup’s Denise Morrison – down from 32 in 2017.

That’s more than a 25% dive from last year to this one.

Words of inspiration for women

“Women need to own their career curation in a purposeful way. Identify the milestones and steps to make yourself ready by starting with owning and stating your goal. Identify the key decision makers and articulate your goal, ask for clear feedback on what you need to do to be considered ready. Don’t be demure waiting for an invitation.” ​- Indra Nooyi

“We had to stand up for ourselves in the face of managers who weren’t as respectful as they ought to have been. There was always a sense that we needed to work just a little harder.” ​- Irene Rosenfeld

“Make an impact in every single assignment that you are given. Look at it as how can I take this to the next level. And be confident in yourself. I think women just don’t have as much inherent confidence in themselves. They tend to be harsher critics of themselves than they need to be. So go for it.” - ​Michele Buck

The drop is mainly due to many women stepping down from their positions over the last 12 months, including Indra Nooyi, who retired as CEO last month (although she will remain as chairwoman of the board of directors until early 2019), Denise Morrison, who retired suddenly after 15 years at the company and Irene Rosenfeld of snack and beverage company Mondelēz, among others.

Today, only one female is at the helm of a Fortune 500 corporation in the snacks industry. When Michele Buck took on the role in March 2017, she became the first women CEO in Hershey’s 123-year history. Under her leadership, Hershey has made several strategic acquisitions outside its traditional confectionery sector, including the purchase of Krave beef jerky.

High return on investment

With evidence mounting that womens’ advancement and empowerment do​ provide a high return on investment, several global companies have pledged to make changes to become more gender-balanced and foster pathways to higher-paying leadership positions.

PepsiCo, for example, has committed to invest $100m to support initiatives to benefit 12.5 million women and girls around the world by 2025.

Nestlé, Mondelēz and Mars, too, have pledged to unlock opportunities for women in key sourcing areas, especially in the cocoa industry.

Along with Mars, PepsiCo is also working to increase its number of females in leadership positions.

The WinS Steering Committee

  • Marissa Gautsch (Co-chair), director of marketing, Sales & Business Development, Land O'Lakes
  • Mike Kaczynski (Co-chair), president, US Sales, Evans Food Group
  • Pam Finer, GM/VP of marketing, Amplify Snack Brands
  • Haley Flynn, senior account executive, Utz Quality Foods
  • Mike Harper, VP, Finance and CFO, Rudolph Foods Company
  • Teri Johnson, divisional sales manager, tna North America
  • Cindy Kuester, director of Sales, Snak King
  • Laura Maxwell, SVP, Supply Chain, PepsiCo-Frito-Lay North America
  • David Read, VP of Marketing & Technology, Printpack
  • Dan Sifer, SVP, Supply Chain/Contract Manufacturing, Herr Foods
  • Lisa Walsh, CEO, Truco Enterprises
  • Jolie Weber, CEO, Wise Foods

Several companies are making changes to pay men and women equally for the same work.

Launch of Women in Snacks Network

At its 42nd​ Annual Executive Leadership Forum (ELF) in September, the SNAC International Board of Directors unanimously approved the launch of the Women in Snacks (WinS) Network — an initiative aimed at fostering leadership development for women snack industry executives.

The association chartered a Steering Committee of member volunteers to oversee the initiative, including Land O’Lakes’ Marissa Gautsch as co-chair, Pam Finer from Amplify Snack Brands, Haley Flyn from Utz Quality Foods, Laura Maxwell from PepsiCo-Frito-Lay North America and Jolie Weber from Wise Foods, among others.

With women currently occupying SNAC International's top two leadership roles, Weber as the 2018 chairwoman and Elizabeth Avery as president and CEO, there is no better time for the association to support women advancement in the snack industry.

When passed the chairwoman’s gavel in March, Weber said: “This is an industry that has predominantly been driven and led by men, but times have changed, and we must embrace diversity and inclusion.”

“This program seeks to foster growth and professional development for women in the snack industry by empowering them to advance, so we see greater diversity at the executive level,”​ added Avery.

This year’s ELF recorded an 80% growth in female attendance from previous years’ events. Additionally, there were several female speakers at the event, including Indra Nooyi – former CEO of PepsiCo – and Sarah Alter, CEO of the Chicago-based Network of Executive Women.

“The good news is that our rising leaders are well-diversified. Fifty percent of the attendees from our recently held Emerging Leaders Program 2.0 were women. We need to help them continue their career trajectory so that one day our ELF attendees are equally well-balanced,”​ said Avery.

“Our goal is to make sure this is not a one-off – that it is supported by men and women alike,”​ added Weber. “We want to create female leaders by providing opportunities to showcase talent.”​  


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