More than 70 women from Coca-Cola attended the Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF) 2021 Annual Leadership Development Conference (ALDC), which offered in-person, virtual and on-demand content, workshops and breakout sessions for participants to build leadership skills, network and share best practices under the theme of “Limitless.”
WFF provides tools and resources to help women build leadership competencies to advance their careers, and partners with food industry companies to create equitable work environments where women thrive, and organizations reap the rewards of a diverse workforce.
“As a leader in the foodservice industry, the women at Coca-Cola and the company as a whole have an important voice in the gender equity discussion and can be a powerful force in leading the way,” said Kathleen Ciaramello, chief customer officer, North America Operating Unit, and WFF board chair.
Ciaramello – who will retire from the company in July – served as both a mainstage presenter and moderator for the CEO and president forum, facilitating a discussion around the urgent state of women in the workplace amid challenges created by the pandemic.
“I attended my first Women’s Foodservice Forum Leadership Conference 15 years ago. If someone had told me then that I would open the 2021 conference as board chair, I would have said ‘Not me… I can’t do that,’” said Ciaramello. “There were times in my career when I had similar thoughts about roles I thought were too big. I was wrong, and that’s what WFF is all about. Helping women hone new skills and build capabilities, all while inspiring and motivating them to maximize their potential. I’m so proud of our work and longstanding partnership, and to see so many of our associates attend, engage and apply learnings in their roles at Coca-Cola.”
The Coca-Cola Company has supported WFF – which provides research, insights and best practices to help food companies recruit gender-diverse talent and drive business results by realizing the potential of women – for more than two decades. In addition to sponsoring the ALDC, the company funds scholarships for women in foodservice to attend WFF’s Executive Leadership Program and supports the LEAD THE WAY initiative to help the industry close the gender equity gap and carve a path for other sectors.
"At this critical time for our industry, the need to adapt to current realities and build new capabilities is evident," said Therese Gearhart, President and CEO, WFF. "With bold steps and adoption of best practices, we can help partner companies retain and grow their female talent to drive gender equity, as well as help with the distinct challenges women face during the COVID-19 crisis."
Alfredo Rivera, President – North America Operating Unit, shared a story about how his mother worked her way up to the corporate executive ranks and inspired him to advocate for women’s empowerment throughout his career.
“Her journey reminds me of this year’s conference theme, ‘Limitless,’” he said during panel remarks. “To me, it’s about stretching ourselves beyond what we believe is possible – which requires risk-taking and being open to learn. What a great and relevant message right now.”
Tanika Cabral, VP, customer leadership, and Pamela Stewart, president, West Zone, facilitated and led panel discussions focused on working mothers and women of color, respectively. Lisa Pinkston, director, customer growth, was named the 2021 WFF Change Maker Award winner for leading the way as a role model for future leaders.
Jinghuan Liu Tervalon, strategic insights manager, was part of the Coca-Cola delegation at the conference, which she called “enriching to the brain and soul” due to a combination of authentic discussions, actionable insights and inspirational keynotes. “As a woman of color, I often don’t see myself or my struggles reflected in the larger leadership training content,” she said. “This conference is different. It not only helped me develop my own unique leadership voice, but it has challenged me to create a diverse ‘wolfpack’ to achieve a better future.”
Keisha Nelson, learning innovation manager, added, “My goal was to identify tools and techniques that would help me boldly step into more challenging roles and opportunities. Each session provided multiple nuggets of wisdom and various action items that if performed regularly would help address my most prevalent blind spots. It was a truly transformative experience.”
“Having been engaged from day one in the company’s effort to accelerate the advancement of women as an inaugural member of the Women’s Leadership Council, I have always made it a point to ‘lift as I climbed’,” said Ciaramello. “As I prepare to retire July 15, I leave behind ‘lifted’ women leaders like Dagmar Boggs, Pam Stewart, Tanika Cabral and many more who are poised to continue this great work.”