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Home » Women in STEM » More companies can encourage STEM careers with positive initiatives

Maria Neville

Director of IT, PepsiCo Ireland

Sharon Cronin

Global Quality Engineering Manager, PepsiCo Ireland

Caroline Holland

Senior Beverage Packaging Global Lab Manager, PepsiCo Ireland 

Graduate programmes can help give a taste of different STEM career options, while in-company sustainability and diversity initiatives foster a positive work environment for recruits. 

The scope of STEM roles means there are learning and professional opportunities for everyone. As Caroline Holland, senior packaging manager at PepsiCo Ireland, explains, “You don’t always need to be an expert in a specific area within science. You can build your own career, and creating the type of career you want for yourself is important. I love my job because I have an element of art combined with science and technology.” 

Careers for graduates 

Gaining exposure to different roles in a real work environment allows students to explore career options before they finish college. “As part of our intern programme, we engage with local universities, identify some of the great talent coming through in the third level and bring them in for a six-to-eight-month period in their third year,” says Maria Neville, director of IT at PepsiCo Ireland. 

For students fresh out of college and looking for long-term work experience options, graduate programmes can be a useful tool to get a foot on the career ladder and get a feel of which professional route they wish to pursue. The company, for example, offers a two-year programme for science and technology graduates with yearly rotations to allow exposure to a variety of roles. Finance students have the option of joining a three-year graduate programme. 

As part of our DE&I Agenda, we have brought in interns and graduates with different abilities, which allows us to expand our workforce and make sure we’re being inclusive while giving them a chance to learn and develop different skills,” says Neville. 

Support through mentorships 

Having mentors can be a useful way for graduates and new recruits to take advantage of learning opportunities and delve into a variety of professional interests while having someone on hand to guide them. They can ask questions and learn about the different STEM careers available

“There are rewarding benefits for both the mentor and mentee in mentorships. It’s a chance for the mentor to give back,” Sharon Cronin, global quality engineering manager, says. It’s great to be able to talk with different professionals, understand the different roles and learn how to raise their career profiles.” 

Diversity in teams is essential. The more diversity, the more creative you can become.

Sharon Cronin

Sustainability matters 

While graduate programmes and mentorship projects attract top talent to companies, actions such as adopting diversity-building initiatives and investing in sustainability will help develop, empower and retain recruits. It forms an integral part of creating a positive work environment and gives employees the chance to contribute to meaningful goals. 

The company is transforming to put sustainability and people at the centre of its business through a strategy launched in 2021 called PepsiCo Positive (pep+). Through pep+, the company is changing how it sources ingredients, makes and sells products and how it inspires people through its brands.  

In its manufacturing, they are working to improve water usage and aiming for net zero emissions. Finally, through pep+, the company is working to bring a more diverse product range with options that are lower in added sugars, sodium and saturated fat and by using ingredients with a lower environmental footprint. 

Promoting diversity 

An integral part of pep+ is to also bring a positive impact to communities, farmers, suppliers and employees. This includes championing diversity and inclusion in the workforce. Internal work groups that bring employees together can help develop a diverse and inclusive company culture. Along with other in-company diversity schemes, the Women’s Inclusion Network aims to promote a work environment that attracts, retains and develops female talent.  

“Diversity in teams is essential. The more diversity, the more creative you can become,” Cronin says. “It empowers everyone to make a positive impact and contribute to the positive transformation agenda that we have. It’s important that everyone has a seat at the table, feels valued and is comfortable being themselves.” 

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