PepsiCo, sexism and “diversity”

PepsiCo, sexism and “diversity”

This is PepsiCo’s SoBe brand, showcasing the actress Ashley Greene and her “zero inhibitions” in a painted-on swimsuit, as part of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit extravaganza. What better way, after all, to promote Sobe’s  “zero calorie” flavors than with a babe wearing zero clothes on your corporate website and on You Tube videos, which have attracted more than 500,000 views?

And then there is the photo, from the page about Our Commitment to Diversity on the PepsiCo website, which goes on at some length about the company’s efforts to foster a workplace of caring and candor and where everyone is treated with respect. As best as I can tell, all the PepsiCo employees in this photo appear to fully clothed, although it’s possible that some wise guy in the back isn’t wearing pants.

The company says:

Diversity isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do for our business. We’ve made it our commitment to make diversity and inclusion a way of life at PepsiCo….In fact, we view diversity as a key to our future.


PepsiCo has been nationally recognized as one of the top places for women and minorities to work. We were one of the first companies to begin hiring minorities in professional positions, as far back as the 1940s. We were the first Fortune 500 company to have an African-American vice president.

The company also says that its

Multi-year strategic plans for diversity are developed with the  same vigor and goal-setting process as other business issues.

Interestingly, PepsiCo apologized for its sexist advertising just last fall, according to Mashable, a website about social media. The company had launched an iPhone application for its AMP energy drink called “before you score,” with “score” meaning (to put it in the most subtle of terms) having a successful night with a woman. The company subsequently removed the application from the iPhone store.

So….here’s my question. Why would PepsiCo–a company with a female CEO, Indra Nooyi–now run a high-profile advertising campaign using a naked young woman to sell flavored water? Does that reflect its commitment to diversity? Or is it old-fashioned sexism?


Marc Gunther, a veteran journalist, speaker, writer and consultant whose focus is business and sustainability, writes for the Business of Sustainability blog