Ciara Dilley

Ciara Dilley leads Frito-Lay’s diverse portfolio of Better Snacking Brands – including Stacy’s, SunChips, Baked, PopCorners, and Off the Eaten Path. In addition to being personally involved in several initiatives that involve coaching and connecting businesswomen, Ciara is particularly involved in the breadth of PepsiCo initiatives developed to advance female founders in the food and beverage industry through funding and exclusive mentoring opportunities.

For the past three years, she has led the Stacy’s Rise Project, a flagship grant and mentorship program by the female-founded Stacy’s brand that awards up-and-coming female entrepreneurs with hundreds of thousands of dollars in business grants and provides access to PepsiCo mentors  and resources. The latest iteration of the Rise Project supports 10 female entrepreneurs with a total of $100,000 in business grants, tailored mentorship from PepsiCo employees and access to professional webinars from leaders in the marketing and retail space.

In this week’s blog, Ciara talks about female empowerment and what it can accomplish, and her opinion on the future of gender equality.

I’m the eldest of four girls from a small town in Ireland who went to an all-girls school. My mother came from a family of seven girls. So, I have always been surrounded by strong women.

Yet, as I went up the corporate ladder, I noticed there weren’t as many people who looked and sounded like me… there weren’t as many women to put it simply, and where there were role models it often felt like they had to put on a different cloak to fit in and succeed. That felt uncomfortable for me. So when I joined PepsiCo I made a conscious effort to get more involved in the breadth of diversity and inclusion efforts the company was developing and I made it my mission to understand what role I could play to help women realize their potential in the workplace.

As I learned about the challenges women are facing and the reasons why women weren’t more represented in C-suites, I realized, as evidenced in the many published data points, our businesses would suffer if they didn’t have women in the ranks. I passionately began to believe that having more diversity would make a meaningful difference, not only in encouraging more women to feel like they can achieve personal satisfaction and success in their professional life, but also just as powerfully in helping their businesses succeed and grow exactly because of the role that women play.

On a more personal level, when women seek and give advice to each other, it’s incredible what happens. In her book The Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates explores the benefits to society when we elevate women. Everyone benefits. And it’s so true. That idea is truly part of what guides me and is hugely inspirational to the work I do.

Someone asked me once what it was like to be a working mom. I always say, it’s so important that I love what I do and I always wanted to make sure it was worth me walking out the door every morning.

That’s why it’s so fulfilling to be able to work on PepsiCo programs that support female entrepreneurs. In the U.S., women only receive 2% of VC funding—and women of color a mere .2% —despite the fact that women are building businesses at three times the rate of men. Those stats are frightening.

Imagine if a woman led funding efforts for entrepreneurs. I hunch it would be very different, less aggressive, more supportive, and you would actually see very different businesses getting money. Our mission is to find another way to identify, invest and support successful business ideas.

As if we didn’t have enough to do, the pandemic has exacerbated all our challenges. The “shecession” is a real thing. We must be more intentional than ever in applying the flexibility we’ve learned—balancing working from home and the office, not traveling as much.

The good news is our ability to have truly rewarding careers where we get to be our best selves is more within our grasp than ever before. When women feel that in their lives, it’s amazing. It gives me hope.