PepsiCo will have a new CEO next month.

Indra Nooyi, was the architect of the soft drink and snack company's acquisition of Quaker Oats a few years ago, and that might have contributed to her promotion.



PepsiCo will have a new CEO next month.

Indra Nooyi, was the architect of the soft drink and snack company's acquisition of Quaker Oats a few years ago, and that might have contributed to her promotion. The Quaker deal seemed odd, but it helped send Pepsi on an upward course into more nutritious sectors of the food industry (including a foray into dairy-based beverages in plastic bottles). Nooyi began her career in India, spent some time with Motorola Inc., and most recently served as both President and CFO at Pepsi. The fact that she is a woman might not be remarkable in 2006, but there's more to the story.

Upon the announcement of her ascension last month, the Chicago Tribune noted that she is the third female executive tapped for the top position of a major U.S. food company in the last couple of years. If that still doesn't surprise you, consider that all three have held executive jobs at PepsiCo. Irene Rosenfeld, former chairwoman and CEO of Pepsi's Frito-Lay division is just settling into the big office at Kraft Foods, and Brenda Barnes, who took the helm at Sarah Lee Corp. two years ago, is another PepsiCo alum.

The fact that the Purchase, N.Y.-based company is now a sort of mill for food executives is remarkable in itself. PepsiCo is obviously doing well. Sales and earnings are growing, with total revenue topping $32 billion last year. The fact that three women are among those at (or from) Pepsi who are rocketing up the corporate ladder might be coincidental, but it doesn't seem so.

In May, PepsiCo was honored by an organization called the Women's Foodservice Forum for a "demonstrated success in providing opportunities for the advancement of women leaders." The organization notes that PepsiCo has a clear policy promoting gender diversity. That policy gets choice billing on Pepsi's website.

It's safe to say, that such policies, if poorly executed, can lead to quota filling and subsequently to poor personnel decisions. The success of these women in and outside of the company may show that when properly executed, a diversity policy or a culture that encourages diversity, can remove lingering glass ceilings, and let individuals flourish.

Yes it's 2006, but it might not be too late to ask if women and minorities enjoy the equal opportunities in your company that they might find at PepsiCo.

By the way, I hope that you've already noticed that we have a new look at Dairy Foods. It's the most complete graphic redesign we have done since 1999 when the logo with the script-ish "foods" debuted. The neat, fresh design was created by a team in the BNP Media art department and executed by our Art Director, Lindsay Leusby.