The Coca-Cola Company’s Global Women’s Initiative: Women as the Real Drivers of the 21st Century seeks to advance women internally and economically empower women externally. Initiated and driven by the company’s CEO, Coca-Cola’s initiative enjoys strong senior leadership support globally, based on a robust business rationale that capitalizes on the fact that women make over 70 percent of consumer purchasing decisions on Coca-Cola’s products worldwide. It is overseen by a global Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) and regional sub-councils that customize the initiative to meet local needs. The WLC, composed of 17 senior women leaders across many geographies and functions, advises the CEO and senior leaders on strategies and initiatives for the accelerated development and advancement of women for senior leadership positions. Company-wide strategic goals are cascaded down to business units around the world, which drive localized action. The regional sub-councils facilitate local alignment and integration by working closely with business unit leaders to drive results.
Internally, the initiative strategically prioritizes the recruitment, development, advancement, and retention of women, with the goal of achieving gender parity at all levels of the organization by 2020. The initiative also helps create an engaged and empowered organization. This global effort encompasses 22 business units in 207 countries, and it is a major component of CEO Muhtar Kent’s Vision 2020. Goals are met through aggressive recruitment of senior women from outside the company and through internal talent processes. For example, People Development Forums are used to identify women who are “ready now” for promotion, to ensure robust development plans for women in the leadership pipeline, and to track and monitor gender balance in key succession plans.
Externally, 5by20 is Coca-Cola’s global commitment to enable the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs across the company’s value chain by 2020. Through this effort, Coca-Cola helps women overcome barriers that they face in the marketplace and grow their businesses sustainably.
Coca-Cola’s initiative has significantly increased women’s representation around the world. Between 2008 and 2012, the proportion of women leaders increased from 23 percent to 29 percent among senior-level women and the proportion of immediate pipeline women increased from 28 percent to 34 percent, with consistent increases across regions. Globally, Coca-Cola’s external recruitment of women leaders rose from 13 percent in 2007 to 41 percent in 2011. The representation of women in Coca-Cola’s key assessment and development programs rose from 21 percent in 2007 to 49 percent in 2011. The reach of 5by20 has recently expanded to include 12 countries; by 2011, it had impacted 130,000 women, and was on track to reach 300,000 women by the end of 2012.