Nancy Mann Jackson

Coca-Cola Women in STEM board members

Coca-Cola Women in STEM board members (left to right): Greer McCoy, Cynthia Taylor, Melissa Gwinn, Grace Miller, Amy Wang, Dinorah Isaac, Brenda Khor, and Montrice Alexis. Not pictured: Ashaki Wilham, Karla Ford, and DeAngela Pitts. Photo Credit: Chen Zhang

Coca-Cola Women in STEM board members

Coca-Cola Women in STEM board members (left to right): Greer McCoy, Cynthia Taylor, Melissa Gwinn, Grace Miller, Amy Wang, Dinorah Isaac, Brenda Khor, and Montrice Alexis. Not pictured: Ashaki Wilham, Karla Ford, and DeAngela Pitts. Photo Credit: Chen Zhang

Nearly half (46%) of the women polled in the IFT Career Path Survey conducted earlier this year cited gender as a factor that limited opportunities for career advancement. At The Coca-Cola Company, both leadership and women already working in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) roles are committed to creating more opportunities for women.

By 2030, The Coca-Cola Company aspires to be 50% led by women globally. And Coca-Cola Women in STEM (CWIS), an employee organization founded in 2018, is working to help the company realize those goals.

As an internal business forum dedicated to contributing to the talent pipeline at Coca-Cola, CWIS raises awareness of STEM opportunities and works to empower, educate, and inspire the women of Coca-Cola to excel in leadership under the STEM umbrella. The organization’s internal site includes almost 9,500 members and allows them to connect virtually and find out about updates, programs, and volunteer opportunities.

“We’re working to support women in STEM, while also supporting our company’s goals,” says Melissa Gwinn, business continuity and ingredient application manager at Coca-Cola and president of CWIS. “The company supports our mission and vision, and our programming is helping build a bigger, stronger pipeline of talented women for future leadership positions.”

Steps

© lerbank/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Steps

© lerbank/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Building and Strengthening the Talent Pipeline

CWIS fulfills its mission in a variety of ways. For example, the group hosts educational sessions and Lean In Circles, which provide a safe forum to discuss topics and share advice. It also operates We Rise, a peer-to-peer mentoring program, and hosts Curious Conversations, which are opportunities for women to meet with STEM leaders to discuss hurdles and allies.

In addition to offering internal programs for women at Coca-Cola, CWIS is externally focused to help boost STEM education and opportunities for girls and women, Gwinn says. The group works with schools and community organizations and has a scholarship program for college women in STEM disciplines.

Currently, CWIS leaders are teaming with internal partners in human resources, specifically in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to develop metrics and programs to meet goals for hiring and promoting more women, Gwinn says.

Celebrating Successes

While The Coca-Cola Company aims to boost its number of women leaders, female leadership is not new for the organization. For example, Nancy Quan, senior vice president and chief technical and innovation officer, has navigated a 15-year career at Coca-Cola, through multiple roles and geographies. She believes that an open mindset, effective communication skills, and a drive to keep learning and growing have been instrumental in the growth of her career.

"I have always believed in challenging the status quo to get to a better place."

- Nancy Quan, Senior Vice President and Chief Technical and Innovation Office, The Coca-Cola Company ,
Nancy Quan

When we close our minds or just assume we know something, we lose an opportunity to move ahead in a better or more effective way,” Quan says. “I have always believed in challenging the status quo to get to a better place. Keeping an open mindset enables us to use the best resources to get us to a better place faster and more effectively.

In an effort to replicate successes like that of Quan, CWIS programming focuses on providing practical knowledge and skills to help women in STEM move their careers forward. For example, after CWIS hosted a session about how to deliver a great pitch, one attendee used what she learned to deliver a pitch to her boss and secure a promotion. Also, some of CWIS’s scholarship recipients have eventually landed STEM jobs at Coca-Cola as a result of their relationship with CWIS.

Expanding Internationally 

Last year, CWIS expanded internationally in an effort to support and grow the ranks of women at Coca-Cola on a global scale. With nine company operating units around the world, CWIS established a lead across each of those units.

Each operating unit is approaching programming in its own way, says Amy Wang, director of capabilities in the Technical, Innovation & Supply Chain organization and CWIS International Hub Chair. In the inaugural year, each Hub in the operating unit is focused on networking and awareness.

Expanding CWIS globally is not without challenges. First, the STEM acronym is not well known outside the United States, so communication is one hurdle. “Also, in many countries, there are just general challenges for women in the workforce, not just in STEM roles,” Wang says. “For many countries, the pressing need is for equality of women in the wider community.”

With CWIS leading the charge, Coca-Cola continues to work to make a difference for women in its company and in their communities around the world.

About the Author

Nancy Mann Jackson is a freelance writer based in Huntsville, AL ([email protected])