She heads one of the world’s biggest consumer product companies and one of the only 20 women heading an S&P top 200 company, but her insights on the issues women still face at work come across as telling of the situation prevalent even today.
Speaking at the Women in the World Summit, Indira Nooyi, the 44 year old Indian-born CEO of Pepsico, has shared a lot of heartfelt thoughts about women at the workplace.
The host opened the show with asking both her guests, Nooyi and Anne Marie Slaughter is “Women needed a revolution at the workplace” which met with a resounding yes from both the esteemed guests.
Nooyi shared how women have finally ‘clawed their way into business’ with excellence in education, performance and became the gatekeepers of businesses. “If there are no women, there are no business”, she said. Nooyi thinks that while women have now arrived in the workplace, some discrimination still exists. Income parity still exists. Being patronised by being called “honey”, “babe”, or “sweetie” by male colleagues still is prevalent.
Nooyi and Slaughter also discussed ways women can support each other at work. “I don’t believe women help women enough in the workplace,” Nooyi said drawing a thunderous applause from the audience. “What’s wrong with us women? We ought to be helping each other out.” Citing an example, Nooyi came forth about she felt that women don’t take feedback from other women as well as they do from men. “If a guy does a terrible job at a presentation and a colleague comes and tells him “hey that awful. Fix it. Don’t gesture so much”, they smile and fist bump. If a women does the same, and you go “Hey that was terrible. What were you thinking?”, the response is usually “Oh god, so bitchy!”
“We assume that feedback from women means something is wrong but if the same feedback came from men, we accept it. Or worse we don’t give feedback to women the way we should, even though we know that they’re not doing well. I think we need to change our whole approach to supporting each other, taking advice from each other, seeking it out.”
Talking about work life balance and importance of maintaining it, Nooyi elaborated a heart-touching example where her 4 year old daughter would sleep under her mother’s work desk because she worked so much and literally ‘lived in the company’. Nooyi mentioned how she may be a CEO today, but it’s come after a lot of compromise and sacrifices.
“If I had to write a letter to my younger self, I’d say be careful about the choices you make in your career. You’d look back and it’d hurt like hell.”
In another example, Nooyi revealed how her son once drew a picture of a laptop as her mother. “My son literally thought I was a laptop!”, she laughed. She recalled examples of when her children were kids and their grandparents were called in to help out and supervise the nanny. Nooyi hinted that in a country with ageing population and working women, we need to figure out a similar system to organize care. “We have to create these things. The sisterhood needs to be stronger”, she said.
Nooyi said women need to think creatively and push for solutions to work-family balance, completing the revolution that they started when they“clawed” their way into in the workforce. “We’ve got to finish the business,” she said.
“If we can’t finish the business ourselves, someone else is not going to finish it for us. …I think the big unfinished business and the next revolution is how we can work together to address all these issues.”