Now just two out of 100 executives at the world’s largest food and drink firms are women.
The slow progress that the food industry was threatening to make on appointing women to senior roles is being undone at every turn. For each positive step, like only the third female chief executive of the 100 largest food and drink companies, we lose a leader like Indra Nooyi.
Her exit means that the number of female CEOs within the top 100 food and beverage companies is reduced from three to two. Nooyi contributed to 80% growth in the company’s revenue over her 12 years as CEO, but will be replaced as CEO by Ramon Laguarta.
Nooyi is inspirational: in an interview with Forbes, she said: “I decided after a while I was never going to win the looks battle. I focused on the brains part. I focused on doing the job better than anyone else could do it.
“I started to depend more and more on my brains and my hard work as opposed to how I looked or how I talked. Think of me not as a complete package, but a brain.”
This mentality is a necessary one in such a male-dominated field. As well as this, Nooyi has faced challenges from consumer demands in the rise of health and wellbeing in the sector. She overcame both obstacles with vigour, outperforming her peers in the company’s outstanding revenue growth of over 80%.
News of Nooyi’s departure comes frustratingly soon after the appointment of Beth Ford as Land O’Lakes’ new CEO just last week, and less than two months after Denise Morrison left Campbell’s. One step forward, two steps back.
The World Economic Forum’s 2017 report on gender equality states that the gap will not be closed for another 217 years – and Nooyi’s departure simply fuels the status quo. This way of looking at things argues that everything works on a cycle. How can female entrepreneurs feel encouraged to apply to higher-level jobs when there are little to no role models for them to look up to?
This impact trickles down to other levels of the food and beverage industry. For example, according to McKinsey & Company, food manufacturers have the food industry’s worst rate of initial promotion for women at only 2.7%, compared to 10.5% of men being promoted to manager from entry level.
Lynn Taliento and Anu Madgavkar from McKinsey said: “The economic and social benefits of narrowing the gender gaps are clear. If women were to participate in the world of work identically to men, an additional $28 trillion, or 26% of incremental global GDP, could be achieved in 2025. That’s roughly the combined size of the economies of the United States and China today.”
The top-100 female CEOs now left in the industry are Michele Buck of Hershey, along with Beth Ford. The further reduction in the number of female CEOs means that the male-dominated culture prevails. More must be done to encourage women into STEM and leadership roles, as the world’s economy will surely benefit.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2023
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