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Coke CEO: Promoting Women Is Good Business

Investing in women isn’t just right, says Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent—it’s smart.

03.09.12 5:15 PM ET

In 2007, Muhtar Kent, the chairman and CEO of the Coca-Cola, looked around his company and noticed it was out of sync with the world—and with his customers. “I looked at who’s buying our beverages around the world, and 65 to 70 percent of our shoppers are women,” Kent told ABC’s Robin Roberts at the Women in the World summit Friday morning. “And then I looked inside our organization, and I got a totally different number.” Closing that gap, Kent thought, “was good business sense.”

Kent began a program, called 2020, designed to promote gender equality within the company—and in three-and-a-half years, Coca-Cola’s management went from 22 to 23 percent women to 40 percent, said Kent. “I’m still not satisfied.”

Kent’s mission extends beyond his company. His goal is to “empower five million women outside the company by 2020.” He says this, too, makes economic sense for Coca-Cola. “Women are the pillars of all the communities we serve,” says Kent. “They invest more of their income into their communities and their families, and they’re unbelievably good entrepreneurs.”

Women in the World Conference 2012

Marc Bryan-Brown

Through the 2020 program, Coca-Cola and its partners have helped 300,000 women in the last year alone, Kent told Roberts. Projects range from microcredit and training programs for farmers in Kenya and Uganda—70 percent of whom are women—to solar-powered coolers for shop owners in India. “There’s a woman who lives near Agra,” said Kent. “By putting a solar powered Coca-Cola cooler in her little store that sells 20 different kinds of goods, she tripled her income, provided for her family, educated her children, and got a light where her children can study at night.”