Coke vs. Pepsi: The Diversity Challenge

More than forty years after Pepsi first challenged Coke in its public advertising, Coke vs. Pepsi remains one of the greatest American debates. Whatever side you’re on, and however good you are at telling the difference, one thing is true – Coca-Cola and PepsiCo collectively dominate the U.S. beverage market. But how do the two companies fare when it comes to diversity? 

This week our analysts dove into Coca-Cola and PepsiCo’s company reported data, and their most recent EEO-1 reports. Here’s what we found: 

Workforce Size

  • In terms of sheer size, PepsiCo’s global workforce, at 309,000 strong, dominates Coca-Cola’s 79,000 employees. In addition, PepsiCo, which has 42 percent of its workforce in the US, has far more US employees that Coca-Cola, which only has 12 percent of its global workforce here.  
  • That said, much of the difference in size can be attributed to their varying approaches to distribution, as well as PepsiCo’s larger focus on food (think brands like Sabra hummus, Doritos, Frito-Lay, Aunt Jemima, and Quaker Oats).
  • PepsiCo’s also distributes, or “bottles” its beverages through independent partners and a wholly owned subsidiary, Pepsi Bottling Company, which adds to the company’s headcount. Coca-Cola, on the other hand, distributes its products through a network of 255 independent bottling partners.

Gender Diversity

  • Based on EEO-1 data, last year women made up 38.9 percent of Coca-Cola’s U.S. workforce, but only 20 percent of PepsiCo’s U.S. workforce. 
  • At the management level, 41.9 percent of Coca-Cola’s U.S. employees are women, versus 33 percent of PepsiCo’s. For its part, PepsiCo has set a goal of having 50 percent of its global manager roles filled by women by 2025. 
  • At the senior leadership level in the U.S., Coca-Cola has 31.6 percent of its positions held by women, while PepsiCo has 37.1 percent.
  • Some of PepsiCo’s slight advantage here might be connected to the tenure of former CEO Indra Noori, who left the company in 2018. Noori, who was the first woman of color and first immigrant to lead a Fortune 50 company, left behind a company with numerous female executives, including the company’s current Latin America CEO, president of global foodservice, chief strategy and transformation officer, and global chief DEI officer.
  • Coca-Cola and PepsiCo both want to have half of their leadership roles filled by women, with one slight difference – PepsiCo wants to achieve this by 2025, while Coca-Cola targets 2030. 

Racial and Ethnic Diversity 

  • Based on company reported data, people of color made up 45.3 percent of Coca-Cola’s U.S. workforce, and 45.7 percent of PepsiCo’s.  
  • By 2030, Coca-Cola wants to have its race and ethnicity representation across all U.S. job levels reflect census data (Black: 13 percent, Hispanic: 18 percent, and Asian: 6 percent), while PepsiCo wants to have ten percent of its managers be Black and Hispanic by 2025.
  • In 2020, Coca-Cola launched its racial equity plan, which among other things earmarks $500 million of increased spending with Black-owned businesses. PepsiCo has a similar initiative, which is which is investing more than $570 million over five years to increase Black and Hispanic representation at PepsiCo and in its partnerships and supply chain.
  • In February 2022, PepsiCo also formed a new Multicultural Business and Equity Development Organization in North America, which will help address inequalities for historically excluded people and underserved businesses and communities.

Board of Directors

  • In August 2022, Coca-Cola appointed former Instacart president Carolyn Everson to its twelve-member board, a move that brought gender equity to its boardroom for the first time. The company’s board also features four people of color, and one LGBTQ+ director, bringing its total percentage of diverse directors to 58 percent.
  • PepsiCo’s board is similarly diverse (58.1 percent), bolstered by the recent additions of Nigerian banker Segun Agbaje in 2020, and longtime Goldman Sachs executive Edith W. Cooper in 2021. That said, one area where PepsiCo trails Coca-Cola is gender diversity, as PepsiCo only has four women directors on its fourteen-member board. 

What’s the verdict?

Both companies have strong DEI programs, both within their companies, and their global supply chains. And while consumers may debate the merits of Coke and Pepsi until the end of time, we applaud both companies for articulating clear goals, investing billions of dollars in global DEI programs, and building workforces that reflect the diverse populations that both companies serve.

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