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 Feature Article
Saturday September 22

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi is stepping down

She will remain as chairwoman of the board of directors until early 2019. Nooyi, 62, will be replaced by Pepsi's (PEP) global operations chief Ramon Laguarta, 54.

Nooyi, who was born in India, is one of a handful of people of color to lead a Fortune 500 company.

She helped turn Pepsi into one of the most successful food and beverage companies in the world. Sales grew 80% during her 12-year tenure. She spearheaded Pepsi's transition to a greener, more environmentally aware company.

Nooyi has been with Pepsi for 24 years. Before becoming CEO, she led the company's expansion through acquisitions, including its 2001 purchase of Quaker Oats. She earned $31 million last year, and $87 million over the last three years, according to company filings.

"Growing up in India, I never imagined I'd have the opportunity to lead such an extraordinary company," she said.

Nooyi grew up in a middle class family in India. When she and her sister were young, their mother challenged them at the dinner table each night to give speeches about what they would do if they were prime minister or another world leader, a Pepsi spokesperson said. After the speeches, their mother would vote.

Her departure leaves only 24 women leading Fortune 500 companies, after Beth Ford became the CEO of Land O'Lakes just last week. Just more than a year ago, there were 32 women leading Fortune 500 companies.

Since the middle of last year, several high-profile female CEOs have announced they were stepping down, including Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, Irene Rosenfeld at Mondelez (MDLZ) and Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE).

Laguarta, Nooyi's successor, has served as president of PepsiCo since September 2017, overseeing global operations, corporate strategy, public policy and government affairs. Laguarta is also an immigrant, having been born in Spain. He had previously been CEO of the European and sub-Saharan African unit of Pepsi before being named the company's president.

Nooyi's 12 years as CEO is fairly long by standards of the job. A study by Equilar found that the average tenure for a CEO at large companies is only five years.

Nooyi praised her successor, calling him "exactly the right person to build on our success." She also received praise from analysts following her announcement.

"We have had the privilege of knowing Nooyi for over a decade and have been very impressed with her leadership acumen and very thoughtful approach to managing PepsiCo through what has been a period of very choppy waters for broader consumer packaged goods," said Bonnie Herzog, senior analyst at Wells Fargo. "Nooyi has been an exemplary CEO and sets the bar high."

Still, Pepsi's stock lagged the broader market in recent years, and it has trailed rival Coca-Cola (KO). Shares are down 1.8% this year, compared with a nearly 7% rise in the S&P 500 index. Both Coke and the S&P also have slightly outperformed Pepsi during Nooyi's tenure. Shares of Pepsi were slightly higher in early trading.

Americans' growing distaste for sugary sodas has hurt both Coke and Pepsi. In 2014 activist investor Nelson Peltz pushed for Pepsi to spin off its snack business as a separate company. But Nooyi fought calls to break up the company. It turned out to be the right call, according to Neil Saunders, a managing director of GlobalData.

"Nooyi will leave a company stronger than the one she inherited 12 years ago," Saunders said. "It was her insistence on building up and maintaining a strong snack business that was most prescient. With demand for soda under pressure, PepsiCo can now take comfort in the fact that it has a balanced portfolio of products."

Nooyi has stressed the importance of shifting Pepsi toward healthier food and snacks, saying it was important for the company's future because of consumers' increasing attention to health.

She broke the company's offerings into three categories: Fun For You includes traditional, higher-calorie soft drinks and snacks. Better For You includes diet drinks and lower-calorie snacks, such as potato chips that are baked instead of deep-fried. And Good For You includes foods such as Quaker Oats oatmeal, Sabra hummus and Naked Juice smoothies.

In 2010, Pepsi set a goal of tripling sales of its healthiest offerings to $30 billion by 2020. By 2017, sales had grown only 75%, to $17.5 billion.

In 2016, Pepsi revised the goal. It now wants sales growth of healthier products to outpace traditional drinks and snacks by 2025.

-- CNNMoney's Paul R. La Monica and Julia Carpenter contributed to this report.

See original article here.

The views expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Asian Diversity.

Saturday September 22

Left To Asian-Americans: Don’t Complain About University Discrimination Or We’ll Call You White

The Department of Justice filed a brief Aug. 30 to support several Asian-American plaintiffs involved with a group called “Students For Fair Admissions” in a racial discrimination case against Harvard University. The DOJ’s actions united the Trump administration with anti-affirmative action activists, who have long claimed that elite Ivy League colleges are denying Asian-Americans admittance on the basis of their race.

The reaction from liberal publications was mixed, but one bizarre critique generated the most buzz: the idea that with this lawsuit Asian-Americans are really just “being used” to advance the causes of white people — because they have become, in fact, much like white people.

An article in The Atlantic suggests the alignment of white activists and Asian-Americans against affirmative action exemplifies a trend provocatively called “whitening” — that is, expanding the white race to “swallow up” other races and assimilate them into the dominant white cultural narrative.

This view has spilled into mainstream culture to become one of the left’s defining narratives of the Asian-American experience. The film “Crazy Rich Asians,” a Hollywood blockbuster released on Aug. 15, includes a scene where a wealthy Singaporean mother insults an Asian-American by calling her a “banana”: yellow on the outside, white on the inside. The implication is that Asian-Americans are just accomplices to white hegemony, not true racial minorities.

Perhaps Asian-American “whitening” makes sense in an identity-politics, white versus minority worldview. After all, if you’re a non-white person who supports the issues the left believes perpetuate white supremacy, you’re supporting the enemy, and therefore, you must want to be like the enemy. Yet such a prognosis is wrong, no matter how much the left wants it to be right.

For one, much of what progressives accuse Asians of doing in “appealing to white tastes,” as The Atlantic article puts it, isn’t so much kowtowing to whites as it is simply fighting for the self-interest of our own race. Asian-Americans fought affirmative action long before white Americans like Abigail Fisher (of Supreme Court fame) came to the forefront. Scholarship focused on Asian resistance to affirmative action has circulated since at least 1995. Our fight against affirmative action is not just about white people — it’s about ourselves, and what we believe the true meaning of “equal protection under the law” should be.

But there’s a larger point here about culture and the way Asian-Americans adopt mainstream American culture and behaviors. Is this culture a “white” culture, one that “swallows up” Asian identity? Progressives would like you to believe so.

But this isn’t true. If you don’t believe me, just turn on your radio. R&B music from artists like Rihanna and Camila Cabello (both from the Caribbean) dominates the airwaves. Manga, a Japanese comic book form, and the Korean martial art Taekwondo are hobbies for many Americans of all races. Hookah, an instrument for vaporizing tobacco popular in the Middle East, has emerged as a popular alternative for Americans who smoke cigars and cigarettes. The trend for Americans is not toward “whitening” but toward a great blend of cultures — and liberals should not resent the Asian-Americans who simply wish to participate.

That doesn’t mean that integrated Asian-Americans are the same as everyone else. Deference to parents is much more important among those of East Asian heritage than among Caucasians. Asian-American (especially Chinese) excellence in education stems back to ancient cultural norms, where civil service exams determined political status. These are long-inherited traditions that distinctly define the Asian-American identity.

Our discourse deserves a radical alternative to progressive “whitening” theory, one that is actually not radical at all, but deeply ingrained in the history of America. It is called the Melting Pot, in which every culture can maintain its distinct identity while contributing to the larger American cultural fabric. Various cultures of all kinds have done this throughout America’s history. The Irish, for example, have integrated fully into the American fabric while maintaining their traditions (likely found at a pub near you). When you immigrate to America, you don’t have to give up your heritage, but you vow to learn a new one as well.

And this is a good thing. According to a 2018 study by The American Sociological Review, U.S. immigrants acclimate to their status as an American faster than immigrants to almost every other country in the world, becoming fully economically adjusted in less than 20 years. Contrast this with countries like Germany and Sweden, where the failure to assimilate immigrants has created almost feudal conditions of social separation between natives and migrants — no-go zones where migrant rule is so strong even the police don’t know to regulate them.

The evidence is clear. America does it better. So when Asian-Americans fall in love with American ideals while maintaining their enthusiasm for their heritage, this isn’t “whitening.” This is the American ideal.

Kenny Xu is a junior mathematics major at Davidson College. He has also written for The American Conservative and Lone Conservative. You can follow his writing on race and culture on Twitter at @kennymxu and on Facebook at @thekennethxu.

See original article here.

The views expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Asian Diversity.

Saturday September 22

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is an addition to the Asian-American canon

A working-class woman meets an outrageously rich man, and they fall in love in much to the derision and outrage of the man’s family (mostly his mother).

It’s a classic formula, seen in works like “Pride and Prejudice” to which some critics have compared “Crazy Rich Asians,” the romantic-comedy released this summer that featured an all-Asian cast. But watching the film on opening day, in a Japantown, San Francisco theater, as a Korean-American surrounded by many other Asians and Asian-Americans, I made the inevitable comparison: “Crazy Rich Asians” is remniscent of every Asian drama I watched growing up, cinematized and Americanized and distributed to a theater near you.

An Asian drama, for the uninitiated, is the term used for mini-series television programs broadcast in (you guessed it) Asian countries including China, Japan, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines. A lot of dramas center around a romance, and a lot of these romances derive conflict from their leads’ different social classes. This rags-to-riches-through-marriage trope is so popular that a Japanese manga called “Hana Yori Dango,” otherwise known as “Boys Over Flowers,” was adapted as a drama in four different countries: Japan, South Korea, Taiwan,and China, with the most recent Chinese adaptation, renamed Meteor Garden, produced by and aired on Netflix.

“Crazy Rich Asians,” give or take a few side stories, seems to follow this trope to the number. Chinese American economics professor Rachel Chu, played with endearing warmth by Constance Wu, is swept off her feet and flown to Singapore by her handsome billionaire boyfriend Nick Young, played by Henry Golding. There, she meets his outrageously wealthy family, including his elegant cousin Astrid, played by Gemma Chan, as well as Peik Lin, her noveau riche college roommate, played with hilarity and no small amount of charm by Awkwafina. Most significantly, she meets Eleanor Young, Nick’s mother and Singaporean socialite, whom Michelle Yeoh captures with sensitivity, majestic grace and a frostiness that hints at the steely demeanor needed to live her kind of life.

The film itself is vibrant, colorful and completely apropos for Jon Chu, a director whose beginnings in the film industry are attached to the never-actualized remake of the musical “Bye Bye Birdie” and his own similarly fizzled adaptation of “The Great Gatsby.” Chu successfully takes the film’s sharp but frothy source material and adapts it into something sweeping and rollicking, with a soundtrack that dips into vintage Chinese jazz songs and Chinese covers of American and British pop numbers. Thanks to such efforts, the movie is big, booming and brassy, yet guided by a meticulous hand that is inevitably rooted in the fact that “Crazy Rich Asians” is the first American film in 25 years to feature an all-Asian cast.

Interviews with the cast and director have made certain that everyone involved with this film feel the weight of its potential failure for Asian-Americans and the delicate balance the film has to play to be a success. The film can’t be “too Asian” because it needs to appeal first to an American audience, but it can’t be so American that it loses sight of representing its characters and their ethnicities accurately. It needs to pay tribute to the significance of cultural backgrounds for Asian-Americans, but it also needs to avoid playing into the “perpetual foreigner” myth.

“Crazy Rich Asians” might resemble an Asian drama, but it is an American film. Despite its similarities to an age-old trope, the film is Asian-American because it plays the same delicate balance that many Asian-Americans play in our day-to-day lives. Its primary source of conflict is familiar to many, of the tensions between motherland and diaspora, of the inner battle between culturally fostered collectivist ideals and individualism that surrounds us socially; essentially, of whether or not we choose to say Asian or Asian-American.

There are many, dramas, films and novels featuring Asian people as heroes, as complex characters who are not simply reduced to a series of stereotypes. But “Crazy Rich Asians” is not one of these works; it instead adds itself to a small and limited canon for Asian-Americans. This canon has sometimes felt so small that it was virtually invisible, only existent on YouTube with content creators such as Wong Fu Productions and on one-off episodes of TV shows such as Glee’s “Asian F.” It’s a canon where I often felt the need to include Asian dramas, so that I could find people who at least looked like me.

In this canon, the last film to feature an all-Asian cast was 1993’s “The Joy Luck Club,” and besides the ethnicities of the cast members involved, the two could not be more different. Where “Crazy Rich Asians” is a purely cinematic experience, almost surreal in its joyful ride through pure affluence, “The Joy Luck Club” highlights the lives and struggles of immigrant Chinese women and their daughters. I remember actively avoiding the film because I didn’t want to watch a film where I could all too acutely feel every micro-expression of grief, hurt and loss. “The Joy Luck Club” was a monumental film because it told the stories of Asian-Americans and highlighted some of what affected us — but “Crazy Rich Asians” is monumental in a different way, not because of the story of it tells, but because it is the first time I have seen a major American film give Asians and Asian-Americans the room to breathe, to be joyful, to simply be part of a good time without being told about our trauma and our history of exclusion over and over again.

For the careful viewer, “Crazy Rich Asians” contains nod after nod to this canon. But the appearances of artists such as Kina Grannis, who is Japanese-American and a frequent collaborator with Wong Fu, the end-credits cameo by Glee’s Harry Shum Jr. and even the casting of Lisa Lu, who portrayed one of the mothers in “The Joy Luck Club,” as Ah Ma, don’t just feel like Easter eggs included for Asian-American viewers. It instead feels like acknowledgement of “Crazy Rich Asians” as a boisterous, long-overdue addition to a canon that is finally expanding.

See original article here. Image originally appeared here.

The views expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Asian Diversity.
 On the Move
Playwright becomes first Asian-American woman to have Broadway show with 'Straight White Men'

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