By now we've all seen the backlash against Pepsi's latest ad—in which Kendall Jenner catches the #Resistance bug. The response was swift and merciless:
If I had carried Pepsi I guess I never would've gotten arrested. Who knew?— deray mckesson (@deray) April 5, 2017
How does no one involved in the creative process here recognize the fuck up here? Hire black people. https://t.co/QjG0CiwiQh— roxane gay (@rgay) April 4, 2017
It will be hard for PepsiCo to adequately address this criticism because, like so many other companies, it releases very little demographic data (despite recently setting an ambitious agenda on social accountability). As of 2015, 27% of Pepsi's U.S. senior executives were women and 36% were people of color, according to a report that was noticeably scant on hard numbers for future targets. Meanwhile, the company's 2025 diversity goal reads vaguely: "Continue to develop a diverse, inclusive and engaged workforce that reflects the global communities where we do business; strive to achieve gender parity in our management roles and pay equity for women; and support working caregivers."
Tech firms often complain of being singled out on diversity and inclusion issues. And while there's good reason for that, it can make it easier for other industries to avoid criticism right up until the point where Kendall Jenner is handing a Pepsi to a cop in riot gear. It's one thing for Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi (herself a woman of color) to declare diverse hiring a "business imperative," but it's another thing for her company—or any company—to release more data, set clearer targets, and explain how it plans to reach them.