The former PepsiCo CEO describes his journey in corporate America in his new memoir and calls for a federal policy for parental leave.
Many of these problems persist in American business today, says Nooyi, 65, who retired from PepsiCo in 2018 and is considering her next career move. She is now advocating for policies such as paid parental leave, a national child care system, flexible work schedules and remote work arrangements – the kind of support she says she will give to her two daughters when they are young. could have allowed more attendance. Below, an edited interview:
Wall Street Journal: How would your life be different if you had flexible work, remote work or on-site child care?
Ms. Nooyi: If I had the technology to stay in touch with my kids and allowed me to act flexibly, I wouldn’t have missed out on some important parts of my kids growing up. Even though our family was coming from India who was coming to help us, there were tensions, there were challenges, there were scheduling issues. In the midst of all this, we had to fight. It would have been very easy for my husband and I to work from home.
Businesshala: Your description of a multi-generational life resonated with me, as my family lived that way during the pandemic.
Ms. Nooyi: It’s an adjustment, because your parents assume they know a little more about raising children, that they have more experience. But we wish there was a different model for raising kids, and oh my god, don’t even get me started. I must say that everyone is right. You quietly tell your husband, “Shut up.” You have to say “shush” to your mom quietly. This is how you hone your diplomatic skills.
Businesshala: You write that you encountered sexist behavior from some of your own board members. What advice do you have for women officers in similar situations today?
Ms. Nooyi: One of the most helpful and wonderful boards I’ve had. But some members may feel free to talk to me or interrupt me before I finish. One of the board members would always tell me, “I wouldn’t say it that way at all,” and when I asked him how he would put it, he would repeat what I said. I’m like, “Give me a break.”
If leaders see behavior that isn’t quite right, they should just call it right there and say, “Look, make sure we don’t talk about that.” I’m also hoping that a significant group of women will help each other in these situations, because when you’re the only woman in the room, it’s much harder to try to change your behavior.
Businesshala: You suggest a mandatory retirement age and a maximum tenure of 15 years for corporate directors. Do you think a big shake-up is necessary?
Ms. Nooyi: We need to add capacity to the board that represents the voice of the working woman so that those issues of family and women are also central to the boardroom discussion. You can extend the board, and if you don’t, you’ll have to figure out how to redo an existing room.
Businesshala: Twice in your career, you tendered your resignation after your boss failed to put an end to sexist behavior. In 1994 the engineering company ABB . Inhandjob
You write that your boss regularly calls you “Honey”. And in 1996, when you were a top strategist at PepsiCo, you write that male colleagues insulted you in meetings when you presented forecasts that differed from theirs—and no one backed you. What did you learn from those experiences?
Ms. Nooyi: For the first time, I said, “I’m leaving,” and off I went. The second time around, PepsiCo swiftly retaliated and said it was not going to happen again. It was not a threat and I was not asking for anything. I’m just telling you, “If you don’t respect me, I’ll take my skills elsewhere.” It was a turning point in my time at PepsiCo.
Businesshala: Because after that you were treated with more respect?
Ms. Nooyi: Yes. Some people who constantly let me down realized they were doing something wrong because [then-CEO Roger Enrico] called them out. The tone at the top, which was a bit muted for a while, changed, calling for bad behavior.
Businesshala: You write that you were disappointed by the headlines that when you left PepsiCo there were no female contenders to replace you. Can you talk about how you tried to groom women executives in the company?
Ms. Nooyi: We have produced many leaders. But PepsiCo is a huge global company and someone who is senior middle management at PepsiCo is a prime candidate to become CEO of a large geographic business of a large company or a medium-sized public company. They used to conduct frequent raids to get these companies up and running.
So we lost some good women in that. See what Lauren Hobart is doing at Dix Sporting Goods. He’s one of us, absolutely brilliant performance. See what N Mukherjee is doing [at
]what is debra crew doing [at
]. All of them were great women executives of Pepsi. I’m still in touch with all of them, and it’s a wonderful brotherhood. But I feel better because we have provided talent for the corporate world in general.
Businesshala: When you were the CFO in 2000, you learned that you were not being paid equal to the men around you. What can companies do to address the problem of pay inequality?
Ms. Nooyi: I never thought about salary until Steve Reinmond became CEO and made a major adjustment to my basic salary and gave me a sizable stock option grant. We lived well below our means because we were raised in a certain way, and so asking for a pay raise was not in our vocabulary.
In today’s world, people should not demand pay parity. I hope we have now reached a point where there is enough sensitivity about equal pay for equal jobs that human resources departments and companies are regularly looking at this metric and calibrating it to ensure That they are paying everyone equally for the same job.
Look, we’ve come a long way since 2000. I wanted progress to be rapid, but it is happening, and that is what we should celebrate.
Jennifer Maloney [email protected] . Feather