“I go to a million conferences, and this one has been extraordinary,” Deborah Rosado Shaw, SVP, Chief Global Diversity and Engagement Officer at PepsiCo told a crowd of 100 women on Thursday (Nov. 2) at the inaugural Fairygodboss Galvanize Summit. At the NYC-based conference, which kicked off Wednesday night, leaders of women’s employee resource groups gathered to brainstorm how to make their women’s networks more effective.
Shaw — whose presentation followed a long list of inspirational speakers, including Accenture’s CHRO Ellyn Shook and GE’s Vice Chair Beth Comstock, among others — perfectly summed up the spirit and energy of the summit. “I think there’s a real opportunity to have today be a day that we look back on a month or a year from now and go, ‘I remember that day; I remember who I spoke with — and it changed everything. And it’s really about deciding that that’s what we want this day to be. Choose something you heard today and have it be what makes a difference for you.”
She drove home the point that in order to make progress, it’s important not to dwell on what’s wrong and what’s not working — but to instead to think critically about what’s missing and what we can do to work toward a more equal workplace for all women.
“I think to a great extent this convening is really about addressing what’s missing,” Shaw said, thanking Fairygodboss Co-Founders Romy Newman and Georgene Huang for inviting her to speak and for “having the guts to convene us to bring us into a room to see what we might discover through and with each other.”
While Shaw interspersed some humor into her remarks — joking, for instance, that she “birthed three and acquired two” of her five children, which she “highly recommends” — she didn’t shy away from having what she called a “big-girl talk.”
She spoke poignantly about not only gender inequality, but also racial inequality — and how the two intersect. “When we say ‘people of color,’ we usually mean men,” she said. “And when we say ‘women,’ we don’t usually mean women of color.” Shaw mentioned that it was Latinas’ Equal Pay Day — meaning Latina women would have to work through November 2 of this year to make the same amount of money that white men made last year (Equal Pay Day for white women fell in early April this year).
Shaw tasked those in the audience with taking with them their advocacy and leadership skills to each new conversation they have. “We have to be really inclusive in order to engage each other and really get what’s possible out of a room like this — and then all of the rooms that you guys touch,” she said. “Because you’re all representatives here.”
In addition to sharing with the audience some actionable advice, Shaw offered some insight into what PepsiCo is doing to advance women’s careers. At the company, where there’s a goal to have gender parity in management positions by 2025, “it was never about if we should do this; it was about how,” Shaw explained.
She pointed to initiatives such as PepsiCo’s Ready to Return program, and also emphasized the importance of helping more women — particularly women of color — get access to power. “Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of Fortune 100 companies,” she said, “and what I’ve learned is that the difference is about access.”
Shaw and her colleagues have worked not only with women in the U.S., but also with PepsiCo employees across the world. They’ve brainstormed ways to make their women-focused training programs work across different cultures and races, convening women in countries such as Dubai, where women face life challenges, cultural barriers, and organizational barriers that certainly don’t mirror those women face in the U.S. The bottom line, though, remains the same: equipping women with the confidence and access they need to move beyond the obstacles that limit them.
While she addressed the audience with unwavering eloquence, confidence, and poise, Shaw did not pretend to have all the answers. “There’s much to work on,” she said. “There’s no ‘the answer.’ If there was a known solution, why wouldn’t the best companies in the world already have figured this out?”
Still, she did leave the crowd with some practical advice on how to think about driving change: “Gender parity is a game-changing outcome,” Shaw said. “It’s strategic. It’s about constructive disruption. It’s purpose-driven. It’s about inspired engagement. It’s highly collaborative. It’s about authorship. It’s about bold action.”