PepsiCo’s Former CEO Indra Nooyi: ‘Don’t just equate female with
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indra nooyi was no stranger to feelings of guilt during her time as CEO and president of pepsico.
As the mother of two girls, Nooyi found herself constantly juggling the demands of motherhood with running one of the world’s largest companies. Amid takeover threats from activist investors and the soda-driven rebranding of Pepsi into a health-focused company, Nooyi faced smaller, but important, battles at home.
at one point, her youngest daughter looked at her and said she wished nooyi could be a “real mom.” Of course, her executive peers, mostly men, faced similar challenges, but they are rarely discussed.
nooyi, now 66, says that needs to change.
“The men had a goodbye in all this, and the woman was considered the main family manager,” he said. “We are at a point now where men and women have to work together and say that woman and family are two definitions…. don’t just equate women with family.”
nooyi’s comments come after the release of her memoir, my life in full, which describes her experiences growing up in india and eventually becoming the first woman of color and immigrant to run a fortune 50 company.
In 1994, when Nooyi first entered Pepsico’s Westchester County, New York, headquarters, there was not a single female CEO on the Fortune 500 list. For her part, Nooyi says she never imagined herself as CEO. Instead, she said that she simply focused on doing the best job possible in the position she held at the time.
Her perspective is novel given our career-planning-obsessed culture.
“If you start by saying, ‘I want to be CEO in 10 years,’ you’re so obsessed with that goal that you forget the work you have to do,” he said. “I urge everyone to focus on work.”
Her approach helped her take on many important roles during her 24-year tenure at PepsiCo, including Chief Financial Officer and President. She attributes her ability to climb the corporate ladder to constantly being over-prepared and amassing a large number of sponsors who championed her.
The first begets the second, he said. Nooyi took preparation so seriously that before giving a keynote address at the national bowling expo, he spent several hours in the bowling alleys, learning to bowl and observing the clientele.
“You don’t show up in front of the bowling convention with all the bowling alley owners without really understanding the bowling industry and without having something useful to say,” he told me plainly.
While her career is filled with principles that she hopes her two daughters will embrace in their own careers, there are some things that Nooyi hopes will be different. after nooyi made a comment about how she thought asking for a raise was “embarrassing” (a comment she says was taken out of context), she insists that her daughters, and all women, stand up for equality wage. she also wants women to celebrate other women at work without hesitation or warning. without that support, progress will remain stagnant.
“We don’t do it right away,” he said. “We say, ‘Oh god, I wonder what those kids in her family are doing,’ or ‘She must not have been babysitting her husband.’ We always think about what she didn’t do to win this award.”
You can listen to our full conversation here.
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