Top 100 Executives 2020 – Paula Santilli, CEO, PepsiCo Latin America

Paula Santilli provides a template on how to achieve success as a woman in business.

Paula Santilli provides a template on how to achieve success as a woman in business.


Born in Argentina, Paula Santilli became CEO of PepsiCo Latin America in 2019 after serving two years as CEO of the company’s foods division in Mexico, where she’s still based. A keen philanthropist, she is the co-author of The Power of Being Able to: Women Building Latin America.

Santilli started in her stint as CEO of PepsiCo Latin America in May 2019, having been at the company since 2001 when it acquired her former employer, The Quaker Oats Company. Prior to 2019, she served as CEO of PepsiCo’s foods division in Mexico. The first female CEO of the company’s Latin American operations, she currently leads the company’s food and beverages division across the continent, including the Caribbean, and which employs around 70,000 people.

Grass-roots activism
She has said in interviews that, in addition to her role in top-level management, she also enjoys the hands-on side of the job, visiting retailers and distributors and also talking to consumers, and is a staunch advocate of a healthy diet. She has also led the PepsiCo Mexico Foundation, the company’s philanthropic organization in the country, which engages in charity work to fund and support projects such as increasing access to water and sanitation in marginalized communities, implementing sustainable farming programs, providing food to children in rural areas, and partnering with other companies to design and implement the use of recyclable packaging, such as paper bottles.

"Santilli feels a moral obligation to explain to other women how they can combine motherhood with a professional career, even in societies in Latin America where gender inequality persists"


Santilli graduated with a communications and advertising degree from the Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires, and completed a postgraduate degree in marketing and international studies at the Miami University in Ohio. She has stated that PepsiCo has allowed her to realize her potential. “The company has given me important opportunities,” she has stated, having overseen the development and growth of many of the company’s brands.

Women in business
She is co-author of a book of professional coaching, ‘El Poder de Poder: Mujerers construyendo Latinoamérica’ (‘The Power of Being Able To: Women Building Latin America’), together with Mónica Bauer, PepsiCo’s vice president for corporate affairs in Latin America, and well-known executive coach Marty Seldman, who has acted as advisor to a number of Fortune 500 companies, in which the three authors take female readers through the 12 rules for professional growth within an organization, explaining how women can achieve their maximum potential and achieve success. Among her 12 tips for women to succeed and prosper in business are “how to use your power without giving it away,” how to create and make use of a business and social network, how to get promoted using “appropriate audacity,” how to increase your value within an organization, and how to practice “healthy egotism.” 

She has said she feels a “moral obligation” to explain to other women how they can combine motherhood with a professional career, even in societies in Latin America where gender inequality persists, and that it is necessary to build platforms to fight that inequality, such as grants, fellowships, policies and training, and she has described women as being “catalysts for economic growth in Latin America”.
Santilli says PepsiCo is committed to ensuring the inclusion of women in the company’s supply and production chain, from the farmers that supply the company with its raw materials to the highest level of management. “Women are an agent of change that drive the growth of families and the communities in which we operate, and of the economy in general.”
 

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