On Oct. 30, Dale Halton, the former CEO of Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company, spoke to a room full of UNC Charlotte students. The event was hosted by the Society of Systems Engineers and Society of Women Engineers in order to exemplify the way that leadership can manifest in both a formal and informal setting. Dale Halton is a prime example of this as well as a model of the importance of representing women in business.
Halton’s grandparents created the first Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company franchise in 1905 in Charlotte, North Carolina. When the company was undergoing bankruptcy, Halton stepped forward and ran the business for about twenty years. She often recounts how this was an unexpected trajectory in her life, never imagining she would be in business, while also being a woman business executive during this time period when it was not considered common.
While Halton was able to bring Pepsi to new heights when she was CEO, she also managed to build close connections with her employees, one of the main points of the talk.
One student asked Ms. Halton, “What are your favorite memories at Pepsi Co.?”
She reflected on the relationships she built with her employees. The relationships she built with all of the workers helped sustain the company and also provided her with a new perspective and a non-traditional way of running a company.
Specifically, she was able to listen to the needs of the workers and, once Pepsi Co. had a large number of funds, was able to create 401K plans, bonuses and different health plans, such as dental insurance.
When Ms. Halton sold Pepsi Co. in 2005 for their 100th anniversary, she gave all of her employees a 1,000 dollar bonus for each year that they had been at the company. She stated, “Your employees can make or break you,” which is why it was so important for her to provide them with the necessities and show her appreciation for all of their hard work.
Another main theme of the talk was her experience as a woman in business, specifically as the head executive of a large company. She spoke about the many times that other people would automatically assume she was a man and how she had to overcome the stereotypes and preconceptions they would have about her.
One student also wanted to know more about the relationship she has with UNC Charlotte. Halton wanted to create a charitable foundation, which is why approximately ten percent of Pepsi Co.’s profits go to different beneficiaries, including UNC Charlotte. Through this initiative, Halton was able to donate and create a scholarship in the name of her grandfather, Henry Barksdale Fowler. This scholarship is aimed at benefiting women in marketing.
Halton is also a large benefactor for the sports team at UNC Charlotte, showcased through the Halton Arena as well as other sports facilities on campus.
Halton was also asked about her favorite interaction with UNC Charlotte. She stated that her interactions with the International/Global Studies Department have been one of her favorites, noting the importance of visiting and studying in other countries. She said that by going abroad, those throughout the world can learn more about Charlotte and UNC Charlotte while also expanding their perspectives.
Kevin Smith, the President of the Society of Systems Engineers and one of the students that helped plan the event stated, “There is no more tremendous honor than hosting one of Charlotte’s most esteemed executives of the past half-century. Ms. Halton will forever be written into the history of both UNC Charlotte as well as the greater Charlotte area.”