'Women enable success,' Coca-Cola CEO says
Friday, July 26, 2013
Posted by: Barbara Francella
women are put in leadership roles, "brands get better and morale gets better,” Muhtar
Kent, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, told 300 senior executives at
the Network of Executive Women Executive Leaders Forum, July 24 here.
equality – especially in sales and marketing organizations – is "a huge
enabler to repeat success,” said Kent, during a one-on-one interview with NEW
Forum designer Trudy Bourgeois, CEO and Founder of The Center for Workforce
Bourgeois said, is a "game changer who gets that women are an asset, that women
are responsible for driving profit.”
said his belief in advancing women’s leadership dates to the mid-2000s, when he
was promoted to president of Coca-Cola International, leading all of the company’s
operations outside North America.
dawned on me as I looked at the percentage of leadership and young executives
who were women that there was a disconnect with the people who buy our
products, who are 70 percent women. I knew I could not be successful if this
disconnect continued. I knew I had to close that gap for hard business reasons.”
your own bag'
son of a diplomat, Kent was born in New York and followed his father around the
world. "I learned from my father very early in my life to always carry my own
bag – figuratively and in real terms. That means you are grounded in many ways.
It helps me to never lose sight in business of where the dollar changes hands.
If you move from that point, you very quickly can become arrogant, and that is
the beginning of the end.”
his tenure, Kent has established the company’s Women’s Leadership Council,
which is tasked with providing metrics on gender equity in the company among
other initiatives. "We just appointed the fourth women director,” he noted,
"but why would we be satisfied until we get to at least half of our board being
the number of women in executive roles "is moving in the right direction,” Kent
said he learned early on that the goal of gender equality should be addressed
as separate challenge and opportunity outside the greater goal of diversity. "I
knew if gender equality was embedded in diversity [efforts], I wouldn’t get
where I wanted to be as quickly as we wanted to be. We needed to tackle it
separately with separate metrics.
the company, Kent is active in advancing economic empowerment worldwide. "We
have a responsibility to the 207 nations we serve,” he said, "and if we are to
repeat success and have a sustainable business, then those communities have to
be sustainable, from the smallest villages in the Amazon to neighborhoods in
the largest cities. What creates sustainable communities? It’s economic empowerment
efforts such as providing clean water systems in small towns and villages in
Africa and Latin America to economic empowerment initiatives in urban areas,
The Coca-Cola Company is committed to empowering 5 million women by 2020.
what legacy he’d like to leave, Kevin said, "To have done something to transfer
a better world to the next generation. That is the biggest legacy you can have
because it is terribly important for us who can impact that, to have a role in
that from a social, economical, political, and environmental point of view, to
leave a better world than we have inherited. That is becoming increasingly more
said he learns a great deal from young adults, such as
his 28-year-old daughter, he said. "If we are not connected in the consumer
business to the minds and psyche of these young people, we are going to lose
the plot. In the past our business was creating great, quality products and
brands that taste good and having a great distribution system and great
advertising that would create positive impressions. Today, you can only be
successful if you create positive consumer expressions – how people talk about
you. And the character of your company has to meet the expectations of young