This week, Kathleen Ciaramello, Coca-Cola North America’s President of Foodservice and On-Premise, joins industry peers and nearly 200 fellow Coca-Cola associates at the Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF) Annual Leadership Development Conference (ALDC).

The ALDC fosters an inclusive environment in which women in the foodservice industry support the upward trajectory of their female peers. The session provides an opportunity to develop leadership skills, network and share best practices.

“Now is the time," Ciaramello says. "Empowering women and supporting gender equity is crucial on both moral and practical grounds. Advocating for women is not only the right thing to do... it also helps companies and communities grow and succeed.”

She adds, “As a leader in the foodservice industry, the women at Coca-Cola and the company as a whole have an important voice in the gender equity discussion and can be a powerful force in leading the way.”

Kathleen Ciaramello
Ciaramello addresses associates at Coca-Cola Headquarters in Atlanta.

Coca-Cola’s Commitment

Coca-Cola has been a WFF partner for 20 years. Company leaders such as Ciaramello have served on the WFF Board of Directors and created scholarships for women in foodservice to attend WFF’s Executive Leadership Program and the ALDC.

This commitment to advancing the careers of women is amplified inside the walls of Coca-Cola. Ciaramello is proud to serve as one of the 12 inaugural members of Coca-Cola’s Women’s Leadership Council. Formed in 2007, the council is a sustainable advisory organization designed to help the company meet the global leadership demands of a rapidly changing marketplace by increasing the focus on the development and movement of women into leadership roles. 

The council has pioneered flexible work arrangement programs that benefit employees of all genders, as well as developed leadership programs to accelerate the career growth of mid-level female associates across global operations. Additionally, the council spearheaded the 5by20 program, The Coca-Cola Company's commitment to support the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2020 across its global value chain by teaching business basics, providing access to credit and building networks to help their businesses grow.

The Business Case for Gender Equity

Jim Dinkins, president of Coca-Cola North America, considers the company’s commitment to gender equity a strategic focus.

“Working together, we’ll be able to focus our collective efforts on promoting gender equality and advancing the careers of women," he said. "At Coca-Cola, we know the success of our business depends on having gender diversity across our organization and talented women in all roles, especially senior leadership roles.”

The 2017 Women in the Workplace Study, a comprehensive analysis of women in corporate America, echoes this sentiment. The study demonstrates that in top-performing companies, the gender gap for promotions to manager is smaller than at average companies.

'We have a great opportunity to be a role model for others, which is important because we touch so many aspects of our industry – from manufacturing to distribution to operators. We know it is in our best interest to see all segments of the food industry winning the war for talent.'

Given that women influence 93 percent of household food purchases, incorporating their perspectives into high-level food industry decisions makes business sense.

“That’s why,” Ciaramello explains, “at Coca-Cola, women make up nearly 50 percent of the company’s global workplace and hold over 30 percent of senior leadership roles. It’s why we’ve increased representation of women in our mid-level pipeline to 45 percent and why we are strategically focused on hiring talented women for all kinds of positions and career paths.”

Though Ciaramello acknowledges there is much work left to be done to continue to attract, develop and retain talented women both at Coca-Cola and the larger foodservice industry, she's proud to work for a company ahead of many of its peers when it comes to gender equity.

“We have a great opportunity to be a role model for others, which is important because we touch so many aspects of our industry – from manufacturing to distribution to operators," she said. "We know it is in our best interest to see all segments of the food industry winning the war for talent.”

Supporting WFF’s LEAD THE WAY initiative, which seeks to make the food industry the first to close the gender equity gap and lead the way for other industries, is an essential step in that direction.

“Working together, we’ll be able to focus our collective efforts on promoting gender equity and advancing the careers of women,” Ciaramello says. "Together, we will confront obstacles that have traditionally stood in the way – one sip and one breakthrough at a time!”