The women driving the growth of Coca-Cola’s footprint in the PH

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Many industries have been making long-term systemic changes to institutionalize an inclusive environment for more women to succeed within and outside their careers. There is still a long way to go toward a fully equitable society—but with more organizations prioritizing inclusive growth and more women in positions of leadership, we are witnessing a ripple effect of meaningful, progressive change across communities. 

Coca-Cola has been refreshing Filipinos for over 110 years. By placing its people at the core of its business, it has succeeded in driving the growth of its expansive footprint across the country. Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines, Inc. (CCBPI)—the local bottling arm of Coca-Cola—operates with 19 manufacturing plants and over 70 distribution centers and supports 1M micro-enterprises and over 6,000 key accounts—and its frontline sales teams play a critical role in accelerating that already impressive reach.

At the forefront of CCBPI operations are its on-ground sales teams, who—in dedicating long hours of market visits and customer outreach—make it possible for consumers, wherever they may be in the Philippines, to enjoy their favorite ice-cold Coca-Cola product. Though frontline sales tends to be a traditionally male-dominated line of work, CCBPI has been breaking barriers and taking on the challenge of putting more women under the spotlight.

In celebration of Women’s Month, CCBPI shares stories of success from women in sales—each of them a testament to how creating equal opportunities in the workplace enable the rise of a culture of professional empowerment and personal fulfillment.

Riva Evangelista, Regional Sales Manager of Quezon

women driving the growth of Coca-cola

Riva Evangelista never imagined how far she would go in her 15-year career with CCBPI, but her trajectory was inevitable, given how she has coupled her fearless attitude toward life with pursuing her success in work. And, with her growing up in Tondo and meeting people from all walks of life, it has become second nature to her to learn from other people’s experiences. 

At first, Riva was hesitant to take on a bigger role, but she leveraged her knowledge in developing strategies and analyzing numbers when she was given the opportunity to work under CCBPI’s General Trade—the team at the heart of the Company’s service to sari-sari stores and with helping micro-entrepreneurs grow their livelihoods. 

Riva now serves as Regional Sales Manager for Quezon, leading the Company’s engagement with consumers and expanding Coca-Cola’s reach in the province and toward surrounding areas of Romblon, Marinduque, and Camarines Norte.

Being a woman leader in charge of a sprawling territory, Riva makes sure to foster the same sense of empowerment to those working under her supervision. “I talk to my team, especially the women,” shares Riva. “Our culture in CCBPI has always made me feel heard, and I want to impress that on them, too. My advice is always for them to take more space and speak up.”

Shiela Abejero, Stills Distribution Manager

Shiela “Lala” Abejero, who has been with CCBPI for 25 years, has personally witnessed the progressive changes that CCBPI has undertaken to be a genuinely inclusive work environment. Her transition from handling accounts to a more front-facing role in sales was easier because of this, and the established culture of diversity and inclusivity had Lala seamlessly assume her new position alongside her colleagues without the fear of not belonging.

As Stills Distribution Manager, Lala handles a vital part of Coca-Cola’s footprint in the market: its water portfolio. Lala is part of the core team that ensures that the quality water intrinsic to the caliber of Coca-Cola products is always accessible and available to consumers. 

Lala shares the many strengths she has built on as a woman leader in sales, and that she takes most pride in the new ideas she brings to the table. She credits this empowerment to high-level training, on-the-ground exposure, and the support she receives from the organization. She is conscious of cultivating the same environment that allowed her to harness her strengths, and takes advantage of any chance to shape new leaders.

As Lala finds fulfillment in her career, she is a hands-on mom to her three children. “When I’m not at work, I don’t have to worry about how things are going because I trained my team members to become decision-makers,” she shares. “It’s important to empower them and nurture their capabilities the way CCBPI did with us.”

Susette Casanillo, Regional Sales Manager of Negros Provinces

women driving the growth of Coca-cola

Susette Casanillo has been with CCBPI since 2009, and has served in different roles—a professional journey that has let her draw from her openness to learning and self-improvement.  

She equipped herself with a variety of skills as she rose from the ranks in the organization, from learning how to drive when she first started, to marketing, strategizing, and building strong customer relationships as her career progressed. Her background in finance enabled her to create solid trade programs in a very competitive environment. 

Susette is a solo parent, and she has always put her family first as she pursues a career as an on-ground sales manager. Susette’s leadership style as the Regional Sales Manager for Negros Provinces takes its cues from her mother, whose strong-will she admires. Growing up and watching how her mother took care of the family both in the home and beyond continuously inspires Susette to deal with challenges head-on, with grit and with an enduring patience.  

Susette shares that women should not be intimidated by male-dominated line of work, especially in organizations that welcome inclusivity: “I believe women are very much capable of doing anything. In sales, we can use the empathy innate in us to help our customers grow their business with us.” 

May Suba, Stills Distribution Manager 

When May Suba stepped into the role of Stills Distribution Manager covering North Luzon, she resolved to dedicate as much of her effort, time, and energy to it as she could. The scope of her work involves going on a 12-hour trip to Ilocos and Cagayan to personally be with her team, on top of checking on, supporting, and mentoring them every day. And with being both the breadwinner and a hands-on mother, May is conscious of spending quality time with her family and of taking care of her three children who have been so supportive of her career—it’s a healthy, fulfilling balance that CCBPI and its culture of inclusivity has allowed her to achieve.

Just like Lala, May’s role is crucial in accelerating the growth of Coca-Cola’s water portfolio in her area. She takes this responsibility to heart and ensures that her team is equipped with the right tools and knowledge for them to achieve their business goals as a unit. She takes pride in being a good leader to her team and an advisor to other women associates.

“In a male-dominated industry like ours, I’m proud to be a woman in sales and that I’m part of an organization that takes workplace equity into account,” shares May. “My advice for women is to take advantage of your strengths and experiences. I have realized that the work in CCBPI has no gender. You just have to be committed to your purpose.”

Fostering an Inclusive Workplace for Growth

These four women in CCBPI’s sales teams are only among the many trailblazers in the industry that, given an environment of inclusivity, have thrived within their careers and established fulfilling lives beyond the workplace. 

CCBPI’s People First commitment allows its 10,000 associates to succeed through equal opportunities, long-term policies on empowerment, and via learning programs for associates’ personal and professional development. 

The company has a dedicated Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (DE&I) team focused on ensuring that all associates—spanning members of the LGBTQI+ community, multi-generational and multicultural individuals, and persons with disabilities—are given equal opportunities. CCBPI has programs that accelerate the advancement of women talents and has also institutionalized providing its women associates with enhanced statutory benefits, such as maternity assistance and leaves beyond what the law requires. 

CCBPI’s Technology Director and Chief Information Officer Winnie Rebancos, a staunch advocate of women empowerment in the workplace, underpins the importance of an inclusive culture to the success of CCBPI’s talents: “Our People First culture brings out the best in our associates, especially since we foster an enabling workplace for growth. These inspiring, successful women in our sales teams have proven that anything is possible in a workplace that uplifts and empowers. We are, now more than ever, driven to bring refreshing beverages to more Filipinos, as we inspire and are inspired by the strengths and talents of our associates.