A former Baton Rouge resident who now manages the legal department for PepsiCo Inc. visited Episcopal High School on Friday to give young girls advice on choosing careers and furthering their education.
Kelly Tullier, who has been a senior vice president and deputy general counsel for the world’s second-largest food and beverage company for nearly two years, said she appreciated getting a chance to speak to students who were getting ready to make big decisions about where they want to go to school and what careers they want to pursue.
While women make up half of the workforce, they only account for 4.2 percent of CEOs.
“That’s why you have to go to graduate school,” she said.
Tullier spoke to a group of about 15 girls who were juniors and seniors at Episcopal during a lunch meeting catered by her brother, Pat Mahon, who is Episcopal’s chef. Appropriately enough, the lunch featured PepsiCo products, such as Sun Chips, Gatorade sports drinks and Tropicana fruit juice. Later, she spoke to students in a law studies class.
Tullier graduated from Woodlawn High School and earned a bachelor’s in political science from LSU in 1988. She then went to Cornell Law School, where she was a notes editor for the school’s law journal before graduating in 1992.
Tullier said when she was growing up there was a shortage of strong female role models outside the home, other than for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Now women have a more prominent role in the workplace. Indra Nooyi has served as CEO of PepsiCo since 2006 and 25 percent of the company’s senior executives are women.
PepsiCo is committed to giving women a major role in the company as a way of staying in touch with its customers. After all, women make the majority of household food purchasing decisions.
Women face a difficult role in juggling a family with a career. Tullier said she struck a balance during her years working for PepsiCo in Dubai, where she was responsible for legal issues in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Everywhere she went, she took her son, Luke, now 9, with her.
“It’s hard, you have to find what works for you,” she said.
Tullier gave several key pieces of advice to the students, encouraging them to have a thirst for knowledge, to network and to find something that they love and make a career out of it.
“Put yourself out there,” she said.
Some of the girls who heard Tullier’s talk said they appreciated her giving them new things to think about.
Joanna McKee, a 17-year-old junior, said she took away from the conversation that there are a lot more careers she can pursue and be successful in.
Leah Courter, a 16-year-old junior, said she is thinking about becoming a doctor and she may pursue something like working with a group like Doctors Without Borders because listening to Tullier “broadened my horizons.”