As the vice president of marketing at Frito-Lay Transform Brands & Portfolio Innovation, Ciara Dilley has worked closely with Goldman Sachs, Mastercard, the AI-enabled platform Alice, which provides free resources to diverse entrepreneurs, and others to create a much-needed support network for female founders.
In this episode of Investing in the Future of Food, Dilley joined FoodNavigator-USA via webcam to shed light on the daily struggles that female entrepreneurs face, the business prowess the bring despite these challenges and how PepsiCo, Frito-Lay and others can lift up women founders and in doing so also lift up their own businesses.
‘Female entrepreneurs are just doing incredible things’
Over the last 15 years, female-founded businesses in America has grown almost 60%, which Dilley says “is so inspiring” and evidence of “female entrepreneurs … just doing incredible things.”
But, she said, “we are finding that they are still facing more challenges than we would like. More challenges than often their male counterparts are in building and maintaining successful businesses.”
For example, she noted that only 3% of venture capital funding went to women entrepreneurs in 2019 and of that only 0.2% went to women of color.
“It doesn’t take a genius that that is pretty unfair,” she said.
In addition, women struggle to find mentors who will help them or others who have faced similar challenges and can share lessons learned.
“Men … will openly ask and reach out to other men to provide mentorship, to providing networking opportunities and coaching. They are not afraid. They are not shy,” Dilley said. “Women tend to be a lot more polite. We are a lot more reluctant to take up someone else’s time.”
But, she added, women shouldn’t be. She encouraged the to ask for help because they will rarely receive a no. She also pointed to online coaching circles as a tool to help women connect with others who are facing or have overcome the same challenges.
“We have actually partnered with a group called Alice, an online AI enabled platform which provides free resources to diverse entrepreneurs – particularly women. For example, a big part of what we do in this section, we have called WomanMade, is about providing coaching circles, mentorship and webinars where women can log-in and find access to subject matter experts that they might no be able to find otherwise,” Dilley said.
A call to action
While female founds can do a lot to lift themselves up, they could also use a helping hand, which is why Dilley is calling on other established brands, investors, industry experts and others to work together to even the playing field for all entrepreneurs.
“We should collaborate more together. There is so much more we can do together with combined resources,” she said. “For example, [Pepsi-Co has] done some work with Goldman Sachs and Mastercard to bring together the stories we are telling, whether it be through coordinated panels we do or through synergizing.”
Dilley also said companies can lift up women by mobilizing their employees, who often have bold ideas and are looking for a way to bring additional meaning to their jobs.
Finally, she said, companies of all sizes can empower women by engaging with them at different points in their everyday work.
“Just think about the choices and decisions you make every day, whether it be where do we buy our paper towels from to who do we hire to do our advertising creatives,” she said. If companies prioritize or actively engage with women at each of these places there “is an incredible amount we can all do.”