Have you ever seen a pair of golden arches in the distance and suddenly started craving twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheesepicklesonionsonasesameseedbun? How about kicking back and finding your beach with an ice-cold bottle of Corona? A key player for both iconic brands has been Kris Carey ’92.
After completing degrees in political science and comparative literature at the UW, Carey has gone on to work for a number of leading consumer product companies. In 2018, she was appointed to the role of chief diversity officer at where she also serves as senior vice president of human resources in its ever-expanding beer division.
What is your favorite Wisconsin-brewed beer?
I’m going to protest because that’s a bit of an unfair question for me. Since I work for such an iconic beer brand in Corona, how can Corona not be my favorite beer? I will say that I try to get back up to Madison at least once a year for a football game, and when I’m there I’ve been known to grab a Spotted Cow. [New Glarus Brewing Company] also has a great Cherry Belgian Ale, which is seasonal with Door County cherries.
What are the challenges of assuming the chief diversity officer position?
Here at Constellation Brands, diversity and inclusion have always been part of our company’s history — they’re embedded in our company’s values … and our employees live those values every day. As a natural next step, we decided to formalize an office of diversity and inclusion so that we could dedicate resources to … what we think is a very important piece of our culture and our business. Some of the challenges of formalizing the function are … things like setting up infrastructure, processes, and aligning on strategy both short-term and long-term.
Surveyed students of color cite the UW’s drinking culture as a pervasive isolating factor. How important is it, not just for universities but also employers, to make sure that all spaces are safe and inclusive?
To me, it doesn’t matter whether you’re [part of] a university campus, workforce, or any other sort of group. We know diversity and inclusion are important —they’ve never been more important than in this day and age. So for [Constellation Brands], the focus is really about creating a culture where everyone feels valued, heard, and respected —where our employees come to work as their best selves —their true selves — because that’s how we get diversity of thought and that’s how we drive business results, as well. … Most recently, we’ve started a program which has committed, from a business perspective, to investing one hundred million dollars over the next 10 years in female-founded or female-led businesses in the alcohol beverage space, which I think is a big part of reinforcing our commitment to giving folks with diverse backgrounds opportunities within this organization.
What draws you to working with consumer products?
I have an affinity towards [consumer-facing brands] because of what they represent and the way that people react to them. When you talk about Corona and [our tagline] “find your beach,” everyone instantly knows what that is … and everyone has an experience that they attach to it. It’s a way to connect people who may not know each other through a common love of a brand, and I think that’s a really unique thing that consumer brands have.
Can you tie your affinity for consumer-facing brands back to any of your experiences at the UW?
I think one of the things that attracted me was the brand of the university. If you walk around with your gear on, everybody … knows where you come from and what you stand for. A couple weekends ago, the Big Ten basketball tournament was [in Chicago]. I was driving in the city … and saw a couple folks with their gear on. I didn’t know them, but I gave them a honk, threw up my UW fingers, and they responded. To me, that’s one of the coolest things … it’s once a Badger, always a Badger.