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Derek Lewis, President of PepsiCo’s Multicultural Business and Equity Development

The summer of 2020, protests led the nation because of the assassination of George Floyd. Many social and political dissidents criticized police brutality and the racist structures installed against the Black community. Many companies are vowing to make changes that are fair to show solidarity with the Black community. Some contribute to social justice nonprofits, create initiatives, increase minority minority representation through diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, support historic black university colleges (HBCUs), and provide funding for Black -owned enterprises.

Most companies have already kept their old promises after the protests subsided, most notably PepsiCo, which recently launched the Pepsi Stronger Together scholarship program in collaboration with record artist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Fat Joe and Grammy-nominated Gamesa Cookies. The endowment is adjusted for local multicultural communities that are not served and are interested in inviting students to apply for one of four $ 25,000 scholarships offered that can be used for music and art education, according to a Pepsi press release.

“Across some of the largest cities in the country, Black and Hispanic students are on the index on access to creative arts education, despite the benefits and opportunities it provides. Addressing the needs of underserved communities music and entertainment, this program fits nature.We are honored to have the help of leading artists like Fat Joe and Angie Martinez – people who have broken barriers to reach where they are today – as we collectively look to open more doors for multicultural youth who want to pursue arts education, ”said Derek Lewis, President of Multicultural Business Development and Equity PepsiCo.

The program commenced in New York City on June 12. Fat Joe participated in the Puerto Rican Day Parade as the Padrino (Godfather) of the ceremony on Appetite Stronger Together and Gamesa Float. Angie Martinez, NYC radio personality, former Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr., and singer Tony Sunshine joined Fat Joe in the celebration.

“I am honored to work with Pepsi Stronger Together to create opportunities for a generation of multicultural leaders and give them the resources to pursue their dreams in music and the arts,” said Fat Joe. “As an entertainer with a public platform, I take my responsibility to blaze a trail for the future very seriously. It’s important we empower our youth – especially from underserved communities – so they have the confidence and foundation to reach their full potential.”

Fat Joe, Angie Martinez, Ruben Diaz, Jr. and Tony Sunshine at Pepsi Stronger Together x Gamesa … [+] floating on the Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Angie Martinez adds in responding to the program: “As someone who has spent much of my life in the music industry, I understand the importance of music and art for the youth in our community,” he said. “It’s an honor to work with Pepsi Stronger Together to encourage young people to turn their creativity into a passion or a lifelong career.”

Fat Joe, Tony Sunshine, and Peter Gunz perform on the Pepsi Stronger Together x Gamesa block … [+] after this Sunday’s Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Pepsi Stronger Together with Gamesa will continue touring nationally, stopping in Los Angeles, Houston, and Los Angeles, then concluding a route in Miami in October to announce the winners while planning to continue its commitment for 2023. Photographer and filmmaker Estevan Oriol and Houston, Texas Rapper Bun B. Four scholarship winners will be announced in October at iHeartRadio’s Fiesta Latina concert celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. In addition, PepsiCo expanded the Uplift Community College Scholarship program and distributed funds to nearly 1,800 scholarships in 20 cities.

The fraternity was only one notch of PepsiCo’s series of grassroots initiatives. The organization issued an annual update of the 2022 Racial Equality Journey (REJ) initiative to follow transparency and public accountability.

For (bes) The Culture had the fortunate opportunity to speak to Derek Lewis, President of PepsiCo’s Multicultural Business and Equity Development, more deeply about its corporate commitment to creating a racial equality strategy. Lewis began working with multinational food and beverage companies after graduating from Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, in 1988. He started in Baltimore, Maryland, and worked his way up through the organization serving in various roles such as sales, operations, and positions. at headquarters for 34 years ago. So far, Lewis has continued PepsiCo’s work on diversity and inclusion. He led a new unit that was established earlier this year to address business inequality to lead to better results and positive impact internally and externally.

PepsiCo announced a five -year, $ 437.5 million commitment to face inequality and strengthen the Black community and increase representation in international companies, according to Philanthropy News Digest.

The company announced its REJ commitment in 2020 to raise a diverse voice while helping break down long-standing racial barriers for Black and Hispanic Americans.

The company will provide $ 25 million to fund scholarships for students who move from two to four years of college to receive a trade / certification or two -year academic degree program at a community academy. They will pledge $ 6.5 million in community impact grants focused on solving systemic problems, $ 1 million to duplicate programs in Chicago and expand its Food for Good initiatives in African-American communities nationwide. In addition, PepsiCo will build a list of internal reforms by making $ 5 million for a Community Leaders fellowship program for Black nonprofit CEOs that will provide participants who hold executive education with the possibility of networking and subsidies to respected organizations.

The organization also reached an important milestone in providing grants to the first 100 Black restaurants in eleven cities in the United States through the Black Restaurant Accelerator (BRA), a joint initiative with the PepsiCo Foundation and the National Urban League. PepsiCo’s partnership with the Urban League has yielded significant investments to help strengthen Black -owned businesses, and they reached a fair number of restaurants in a year. Across 11 cities with expansion plans, the Urban League served as an extraordinary catalyst and helped corporations in creating awareness for PepsiCo’s Dig In program among Black restaurant owners.

“We’ve invested money to create awareness, tools, and resources for Black-owned restaurants. Last year, we had dug In The First Day in November, which created a lot of excitement around supporting Black-owned restaurants,” says Lewis. “We use endorsers and celebrities such as Carla Hall, Marcus Samuelsson, and those who have defended our program to carry out our message and continue our support for Black-owned businesses in the community.”

Lewis asserted that PepsiCo will continue to be the champion for those efforts to continue to evolve, grow, and succeed with the platforms that the company offers. For their Uplift Scholarship program directed to community academies, they gave nearly 2000 scholarships last year.

“We want to focus on people in two to four years to create the skills to enter the workforce [leading to] higher paying salaries and living their dreams in terms of building their careers,” Lewis explained while at the event in Los Angeles. hosted by Doritos as a snack line to kick off their Solid Black campaign that bolsters the voices of Black innovators, creators, and changemakers by equipping them with the resources to continue their drive for cultural revamping.

Over the next five years, PepsiCo plans to invest $ 50 million in local Black -owned businesses, fund an additional $ 350 million with Black -owned suppliers, and improve the supplier pipeline chain by using advocacy and outreach initiatives. For in-house change, the company is prepared to increase the number of Black Americans in managerial positions by 30 percent, speed up recruitment efforts at HBCUs, and administer ongoing professional development training and exercises to tackle and minimize unconscious bias in the workplace.

“There’s obviously a lot going on in 2020, and it’s time for it all to rise. I’m proud that our company and senior leadership started by CEOs Ramon Laguarta, Kirk Tanner, and Steven Williams, merged and announced a series of commitments. What we call a journey. our racial equality to help break down long-standing racial barriers for Blacks and Hispanics across the country, ”says Lewis. He pointed out the company is initiating steps to expand the range of voices in the market and accelerate its progress by implementing REJ to increase awareness across the organization.

Based on a Washington Post survey that analyzed 50 well-known companies, data reveals that only 8 percent of “C-suite” executives are Black.

Lewis recognized the obstacles for Black executives and further explained that his company has made significant progress with an 8.4 percent increase in Black managerial representation at PepsiCo in Q1 2022.

He further described the progress of the REJ initiative in Black managerial representation. “Our goal is ten percent. I definitely feel we’re on track to exceed that goal [in] the next few years. It’s definitely across the HBCU network and also across PWI, as well. Our recruitment strategy is very good,” and our ability to bring in people from outside at the middle level or executive level [who] are also in place. I will start to see some great results from our recruiting efforts here in the fall and happening, “he discloses. Lewis and PepsiCo are determined to add 100 Black associates to their executive ranks by 2025, mirroring workforce availability.

Locating and employing qualified Black talent is only half the battle when many Black employees still face a hostile work environment. Lewis stressed PepsiCo has instituted unconscious training led by mandated external diversity experts for all national and global executives. A key component to driving the freedom, equity, and corporate inclusion agenda is the training and development programs that corporations work on to build more inclusive leaders.

When asked if there is an improvement in employee morale due to inclusion training, he stressed that everyone is on board to cultivate a respectful environment in the wake of 2020.

“We got an effort to keep that through new employees, people promoted [and] to make sure that we catch new people who move throughout the organization. Have more courageous conversations, be more empathetic, be specific in times of need, and allow we [become more proactive, as opposed to potentially reactive], ”Lewis explained. “I think the training is a good step to integrate the culture and [ensure] all levels are on opportunity.”

As a result of their holistic efforts, Lewis saw a deeper engagement across multiple teams and increased manager participation in training sessions, which took place throughout the year. Furthermore, inclusive leadership training includes frontline managers who execute comprehensive leadership for associates who create, transfer, and sell our products. PepsiCo will certainly provide useful, practical tips and guidelines for fostering an inclusive environment throughout its organization and improving understanding of other life experiences.

Naturally, questions arise when some employees refuse to participate in unconscious bias training.

“No, some people hope it’s because there are a lot of people who don’t know,” he said. “I think one of the positives of the training effort is that people go, ‘I don’t know, I’m glad I learned, I don’t understand the way, you understand.’ I think this education to bring people and learn what is on all sides from all angles is very useful.

When he made allowances for possibly some employees who had negative sentiments toward training, he did not hear any pushback from staff members and most people adopted that command.

The general discussion among those demanding an increase in the measure of freedom to be seen in every sector of life is that diversity and inclusion of equity are incredibly beneficial to the corporate bottom line. PepsiCo’s history has been heavily steeped in this ideology.

“It’s part of our DNA. We have a rich history that goes back to the 1940s. We were the first company to hire African-American interns back in 1942. Allen McKellar Jr. was one of two winners of the twenty-student essay. The contest group joined Poetry. Allen McKellar eventually [became] part of the first Black Salesforce, ”Lewis elucidates that Pepsi recognized in the 40s that hiring people of color helped drive business in sales.

Black sales professionals went to businesses in their communities and developed Pepsi’s presence, leading to growth with consumers and supplier partners.

“The other side of this, I call home, is about driving equity, and it’s focusing more on people or communities and cultures. So the combination of creative driving growth and stakeholders involved in creating shared value for people inside and outside. The company is a winning formula for companies to maximize their overall results for shareholders and all stakeholders involved ”.

By Lewis ’account, diversity is not a word that should be feared or condemned. Still, many executives can take a lasting lesson by mixing and combining Gordon Gekko’s infamous phrase, “diversity is good.”

For additional information about PepsiCo scholarships, high school seniors across the country can apply online at until September 20, 2022. Each of the four cities will also present a designated site where students can apply in person with the help of on -site staff, starting with Fat Joe’s UP NYC store in the Bronx.

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