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How One Phrase Inspired This Associate To Be a Voice for LGBTQ+ Inclusion

Tamara Sheffield shares the powerful message that led her to build a network of support for LGBTQ+ associates at PepsiCo.

How One Phrase Inspired This Associate To Be a Voice for LGBTQ+ Inclusion

Tamara Sheffield shares the powerful message that led her to build a network of support for LGBTQ+ associates at PepsiCo.

Published 06-19-24

Submitted by Frito-Lay North America

“I will never, ever forget the shirts,” Tamara Sheffield says. The message broadcast on the front was simple and powerful: It’s okay to be gay at Frito-Lay! “It’s still my favorite, after all these years,” Tamara says. “As soon as I saw it, I knew that I wanted to get more involved.”

The words don’t just make a memorable catchphrase: They reflect Tamara’s experience from her nearly 29 years working at PepsiCo. “The company wanted people to bring their whole selves to work so that you weren’t wasting your energy on not being who you were,” says Tamara, a Senior Key Account Manager in Salisbury, North Carolina. “A lot of things have changed during my time here, but one thing that hasn’t is PepsiCo’s support of the LGBTQ+ community. I feel I’ve always had the backing of my peers and managers, which has truly been a gift for me.”

Inspired by that catchy shirt handed to her at a 2008 Pride event in North Carolina, Tamara dedicated herself to building a network to ensure that all her colleagues feel as supported as she has during her career. She established a local chapter of EQUAL — the international PepsiCo Employee Resource Group that strives to promote inclusivity and allyship for LGBTQ+ associates like herself — for Frito-Lay's Sales team in the Carolinas.

What began with a handful of colleagues in her area has grown to cover eight states and Washington, D.C. “The opportunity to feel connected to something larger than myself has been so valuable,” Tamara says. She made it her goal to create that sense of connection for other colleagues, too. But she knew there were some challenges inherent to the job she had to overcome. “We’re in Sales, so we’re not all in the same facility every day,” Tamara explains. “We’re on the road driving around to 10 different locations.”

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Tamara Sheffield (left) at a Pride event.

During regional Sales meetings, however, the team is all together. Tamara and her colleagues decided to set aside time during those meetings to give each of the company’s ERGs a regular occasion to meet and educate associates about what they do. “We thought these breakout sessions would be a great way to show our Sales team all the resources that are available to them,” Tamara says.

EQUAL has used breakout sessions to host scavenger hunts, trivia contests and paint nights — events designed to be moments of fun as well as to inform and forge meaningful connections between associates. “They’ve been some of the most special events I’ve ever been a part of,” Tamara says. “Learning definitions, histories and how to talk about certain topics has made a real impact helping leaders better navigate relationships with their teams.”

Over the years, Tamara has expanded her advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community beyond PepsiCo. She played a pivotal role in the establishment of her town’s annual Pride festival and currently serves as the Mayor Pro Tem on her city council. But she feels most proud about the difference she’s been able to make through connections formed with individual colleagues.

During one recent breakout session, a colleague approached Tamara for advice. “He was looking for someone he could talk to about his child coming out, and he said he immediately thought of me and EQUAL,” Tamara says. “Those are the rewards that really stick with you. I’m just so thankful that we’ve been able to create that safe space for people.”

Frito-Lay / Quaker logo

Frito-Lay North America

Frito-Lay North America

Frito-Lay North America is the $23 billion convenient foods division of PepsiCo, Inc. (NASDAQ: PEP), which is headquartered in Purchase, NY. Frito-Lay snacks include Lay's® and Ruffles® potato chips, Doritos® and Tostitos® tortilla chips and branded dips, Cheetos snacks, Stacy's® pita chips, PopCorners® popped-corn snack, SunChips® multigrain snacks and Fritos corn chips. The company operates 30+ manufacturing facilities across the U.S. and Canada, more than 200 distribution centers and services 315,000 retail customers per week through its direct-store-delivery model. Learn more about Frito-Lay at the corporate website,, on Twitter (@fritolay), on Instagram (@fritolay) and on Facebook (Frito-Lay). 

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