PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi: No, Women Can't Have It All
Have you heard of Indra Nooyi?
She’s the Chairman and CEO of Pepsico and she’s also an incredible role model for working women.
Not only is she one of the most successful business leaders, but she’s fun, warm hearted, original and a humanist.
While topping Forbes.com’s list of the 100 most powerful women in the world, Indra Nooyi has a very irreverent personal style…
At Pepsi Co, she has long been known for patrolling the office barefoot, singing in the halls.
In an unusually frank interview, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi said she doesn't think that women can "have it all," adding that a career requires women to sacrifice some aspects of motherhood.
"If you ask our daughters," she said in a frank interview on work-life balance, "I'm not sure they will say that I've been a good mom."
"I don't think women can have it all. I just don't think so," she told David Bradley, owner of the Atlantic Media Company, at the Aspen Ideas Festival earlier this week. "We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all," Nooyi, who has been married 34 years and has two daughters, said.
And every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother; in fact, many times during the day you have to make those decisions. And you have to co-opt a lot of people to help you. We co-opted our families to help us. We plan our lives meticulously so we can be decent parents. But if you ask our daughters, I'm not sure they will say that I've been a good mom. I'm not sure. And I try all kinds of coping mechanisms.As an example, Nooyi explained she had to usually skip a Wednesday morning class coffee with other mothers at her daughter's Catholic school.
My daughter would come home and she would list off all the mothers that were there and say, "You were not there, mom."
The first few times, I would die with guilt. But I developed coping mechanisms. I called the school and I said, "Give me a list of mothers that are not there." So when she came home in the evening she said, "You were not there, you were not there."
And I said, "Ah ha, Mrs. Redd wasn't there, Mrs. So-and-so wasn't there. So I'm not the only bad mother."
Despite such coping mechanisms, Nooyi says there's no way to square a high-pressure career with raising kids.
"My observation, David, is that the biological clock and the career clock are in total conflict with each other. Total, complete conflict. When you have to have kids, you have to build your career. Just as you're rising to middle management, your kids need you because they're teenagers, they need you for the teenage years," she said.
One of Nooyi's solutions was to enlist her employees for help. When her daughter was young and wanted to play Nintendo, for instance, she would call Nooyi's office. A receptionist would run her through a list of questions, including, "Have you finished your homework?" If her daughter said yes, the receptionist would give her permission to play Nintendo for 30 minutes.
In addition to discussing parenting, Nooyi also relayed an anecdote about her own mother. When Nooyi found out she would be named president of PepsiCo in, she says she headed home early — at 10 p.m., instead of midnight — to share the news.
I got home about 10, got into the garage, and my mother was waiting at the top of the stairs. And I said, "Mom, I've got great news for you." She said, "Let the news wait. Can you go out and get some milk?"
I looked in the garage and it looked like my husband was home. I said, "What time did he get home?" She said, "8:00." I said, "Why didn't you ask him to buy the milk?" "He's tired." [...] She said, just get the milk. We need it for the morning. So like a dutiful daughter, I went out and got the milk and came back.
I banged it on the counter and I said, "I had great news for you. I've just been told that I'm going to be president on the Board of Directors. And all that you want me to do is go out and get the milk, what kind of a mom are you?"
And she said to me, "Let me explain something to you. You might be president of PepsiCo. You might be on the Board of Directors. But when you enter this house, you're the wife, you're the daughter, you're the daughter-in-law, you're the mother. You're all of that. Nobody else can take that place. So leave that damned crown in the garage. And don't bring it into the house. You know I've never seen that crown."