PepsiCo appoints female CEO for Latin America unit
- PepsiCo named Paula Santilli to head the soft drink company's Latin America operation, according to a company press release. Santilli will assume the title of CEO, LatAm, reporting directly to CEO Ramon Laguarta, who succeeded Indra Nooyi as PepsiCo's chief executive. Santilli succeeds Laxman Narasimhan, who moved to a new role as global chief commercial officer of PepsiCo.
- Santilli worked in several leadership roles in PepsiCo's Latin America division previously. According to the company, most recently she was president of PepsiCo Mexico Foods. Prior to that she served as chief operating officer of PepsiCo Mexico Foods business units. Additionally, she was VP and general manager for PepsiCo's savory business in Mexico. Santilli joined PepsiCo as part of its acquisition of Quaker Oats, where she held a variety of leadership roles beginning in 1992. She also spent time at Campbell Soup and Kellogg in Argentina.
- According to a report in Fortune, Laguarta announced Santilli's appointment in an internal all-staff email on International Women's Day, which Fortune said it viewed and reported in part as follows: "As we seek to become Faster, Stronger, and Better in everything we do, we're thinking about how women can play a greater role in our success, internally and externally. This includes our efforts to become Stronger by elevating more women into senior management roles, along with our efforts to become Better by empowering women to participate in our supply chain." Two weeks before Santilli's promotion, PepsiCo named Kohl's CEO Michelle Gass to its board.
The number of women filling vacated CEO spots rose to 22% in 2018, a rate that hovered around 18% in the previous two years, according to January statistics from global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The firm, which tracks CEO changes at publicly held companies, found that of the 1,183 CEO vacancies, women filled 264 slots.
Last year also saw the departure of several high-profile female Fortune 500 company heads. Among them were Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup Co.; Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard; Sheri McCoy of Avon; Shira Goodman, Staples' only female chief executive; Margo Georgiadis of Mattel; and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo. When Ursula M. Burns left as IBM's CEO in 2016, that left zero African-American women heading up a Fortune 500 enterprise.
Nooyi left PepsiCo last year and, though she was replaced by a man, she likely opened the possibility of other women taking the helm at the company. In an interview, she described the barriers she faced early in her career and pointed out that women are an under-tapped labor pool.