Like many women, Nooyi needed to take time off to take care of her father. The company where she worked offered her a six-month leave with pay for it. The former manager remembers this moment as a turning point that made a difference. And she ensures that this type of leave allows employees, especially women, not to sacrifice two important areas in a person’s life: family and work.
“In many ways, I hit the jackpot,” says Nooyi, who visited Mexico at the end of October to promote her autobiographical book “My Full Life: Work, Family, and Our Future,” in which she traces her childhood in India to her She went through Yale and how she began to climb the career ladder to become one of the most powerful business women in the world.
Nooyi is aware that not everyone can make it. The upbringing of children and the elderly has historically been delegated to women and the lack of care centers can prevent them from growing professionally, especially reaching leadership positions. In Mexico alone, women spend 50.4 hours a week on domestic and care work, while men spend 19.6 hours on the same tasks, according to data from the Institute for Competitiveness (Imco).
Nooyi knows how inequitable family dynamics can be. But she highlights how from a very young age, her grandfather and her parents supported her decisions that made her grow professionally. Emphasizing the benefits of including women in the labor market, Nooyi leans forward in the conversation and rests her arms on the table to argue why economies should boost female talent.
“If a talented woman joins the labor market, the GDP would grow much more. In the United States, I have seen a significant number of women who have accessed a care system, return to the labor market and contribute around 350,000 million dollars to the economy.
For her, both the government and the private initiative must work together to create the necessary infrastructure and leave wage inequality behind. Nooyi says that women are paid less than men by up to 90 cents, which also prevents many from paying for care services.
Motherhood also plays an important role in the debate about better growth in the economy. Nooyi, mother of two daughters, assures that the idea of leaving her profession aside to dedicate herself to care work never crossed her mind; however, she was able to count on a family support network and to be able to pay for these services.
The board of directors speaks with great pride of their daughters and acknowledges that her career at the helm of PepsiCo prevented her from spending more time with them. She knows that they are proud of what her mother achieved in one of the most important companies in the world. And she is aware that the position she held for her could have inspired them: they both have MBAs and hold positions in the venture capital and video game industry.
In ‘My full life’, the former manager highlights that the cost of care work has increased and that both work and financial stress may be one of the causes that in 2019 the fertility rate in the United States has fallen to a historical minimum of 1.7 births per woman of childbearing age. In the United States, the outlook is for the number of elderly people to double by 2060, which will end up creating job gaps and a problem in pension systems.
The subject seems to be sensitive to Nooyi. “We need children and parents who give birth to these children; we need children to grow the economy, to pay for pension systems and to care for the elderly. Everything is a cycle and it is the circle of life ”, she highlights.
She has even promised to help her daughters with care work when they decide to become mothers and that this does not prevent them from continuing to climb in their industry.
Being a diverse company with gender equality has economic and cultural benefits in companies: it allows companies to have more and better options to fill their vacancies. “If any country or company wants to be successful, it has to bring the best talent to work,” she says, adding: “Incorporating women into the labor market also brings a work style that can be much more cooperative and kinder.”
The route to getting companies to have the best talent goes beyond equal pay, it also has to do with the productivity bonuses they receive and the way employees are evaluated. Schemes such as the need to work overtime to carry out projects or obtain rewards, distance many women from these incentives, precisely due to care work.
Nooyi recommends being careful how you evaluate a woman and a man when goals are not met, while men who don’t meet their goals can be seen as having great potential, it’s a different story for them. “When a woman is evaluated, people say: she achieved her goals but I’m not sure of her potential,” she says.
Although the former manager assures that there are companies that are beginning to change this type of behavior, she also considers that progress should be more vigorous over the years.
In the work environment, which she says can be kinder to women in leadership positions, Nooyi recommends being assertive and avoiding men interrupting them while they are speaking in meetings or negotiations. “Enough, let me finish what she was saying,” she recommends as a good way to get her point across. In fact, on occasion, the board used this phrase during her working career at the helm of PepsiCo.
“These small examples attack women’s confidence and by taking away their confidence, they don’t feel competent enough,” she warns.
Even to ask for a salary increase or the same salary as their colleagues, Nooyi recommends that women speak empathetically with their superiors and with Human Resources personnel. Asking for equitable payment must be done constructively, arguing the work that is done, the time that is carried out to comply with the obligations and the nonsense of paying a person less for the simple fact of being a woman.
Her legacy as a woman and manager
Indra Nooyi is a migrant woman from India who earned a BA in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics, before pursuing an MBA at Yale.
She considers that she has been a very lucky person because from a very young age she had the support of her grandfather and her father to study whatever she chose, they even encouraged her to apply to the best schools in India and later to leave exchange to the United States.
Those were times when women in India did not usually go to school and the jobs that were favored for women were teachers or doctors, never as company managers.
“I was lucky because my mother agreed with my father and my grandfather, I was lucky to go to the United States, which is the country of opportunities for everyone,” she said.
Even her in-laws also supported her to continue working. “Indra, don’t quit your job. You have all these academic degrees, use them. We will support you in what we can, ”she recounts what they told her when they got married.
The support was not only limited as newlyweds, she also received help from her mother when her daughters were born. Both she and some of her neighbors were the support of one of the most important executives in the United States.
Nooyi is sure that the next decades will belong to women. Not only because they are going to school more, getting more degrees and better grades, the former Pepsico director knows that women will represent a great talent base that companies must take advantage of.
“The following decades are yours, dream big, choose how you want to contribute to companies and countries and have confidence in yourselves,” he says.
She also asks those women who wish to do so, not to give up the dream of being mothers, since families must be raised and formed by men and women. “At the end of the day, we must have confidence. As a mother and as a wife, I tell women not to forget the value of motherhood. The family does not belong to women, it belongs to men and women, we have to work together on this”.