She’s one of the world’s most respected business leaders, and one of only a handful of people of color to run an S&P 500 company. Every organization wants her on the board. So when Indra Nooyi says something is broken, corporate America should listen.
She’s talking about our approach to human talent.
Nooyi was chair and CEO of PepsiCo for a dozen years, from 2006 to 2018, during which the company’s sales grew 80%.
“Why aren’t people coming back to work?” It’s not because people are lazy. They just don’t know what to do about childcare.”
But along the way, she came to understand the challenges facing companies whose success depends on finding and retaining top talent — and the difficulties facing women in the workforce.
In her new memoir, My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future, Nooyi writes about the urgent need for business and government to create more work flexibility, and provide childcare and paid leave.
“Why aren’t people coming back to work?” she said in an interview this week with Marketplace. “It’s not because people are lazy. They just don’t know what to do about childcare.”
In her book, Nooyi writes frankly about the difficulties she faced herself as her responsibilities expanded at work — and her family’s needs grew at home. She and her husband Raj K. Nooyi have two grown daughters.
“I’ve been blessed with an amazing career,” she wrote in a LinkedIn post on her last day as CEO, “but if I’m being honest, there have been moments I wish I’d spent more time with my children and family.”
To unleash the economy’s full potential, she says, companies must provide more support for women and families.
“It’s not just corporate America,” she says. “It’s government offices America, small and medium-size enterprises America. The country as a whole has to sit down and say to itself, “How is the economy going to do well if we don’t find a way to bring in the best and the brightest? And many of them happen to be women.”
“How is the economy going to do well if we don’t find a way to bring in the best and the brightest?”
Throughout her high-profile career, Nooyi has used her visibility and voice to speak out about the challenges facing women at work, and women’s leadership. In 2004, she gave a speech at the Aspen Ideas Festival questioning whether women today can have it all, given work as we know it.
That world has to change. There has to be a shift in our approach to workforce strategies, she says — and it has to be a top priority.
“The first thing I would say, in all seats of power,” says Nooyi, “we should talk about disruptions and technology going to Mars, but discussions about family and women and how to include them in the future of work has got to be central.”
Photo Credit: Michael Wuertenberg
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