Indra Nooyi talks about her success in the corporate world as a woman of color

Indra Nooyi: When I left the position of CEO of PepsiCo, I was thrown two big questions: the first was why a woman had not replaced me, and the second was how I had managed to reach the top of the corporate world while remaining married and raising two children. The first was more complex. It’s a question rarely asked of men when they pass the baton, but the question points to a larger problem that still exists. I’ve spent much of my professional life building the capacity of women in the workplace, but there’s still a long way to go. We need to train a lot of women to come up with a pool we can tap into – the pipeline is not just leaky, it’s broken. We need to talk and do more to keep women in paid work and thrive, grow and feel good.

As for the second question, I had no secret manual on how to make it work – there was a series of events that happened in my life, and every moment there were compromises and decisions I had to make to move forward. I originally envisioned the book as a series of articles and essays, but it felt too dry. As I began to think more about the answers to these questions, my story began to emerge as a backdrop against which I could address the issues, themes, and concerns I wanted to talk about.

SS: You take us on this incredible journey of being a really big fish in a really big pond, a big part of which is navigating your job, your home, and your family. How did you reconcile the endless debate around work-life balance?

IN: The corporate world I entered all those decades ago was very different from today. The positive side for me was that people wanted me to succeed because they were like, “Hey, she’s smart and she does a good job. And I received the support I needed to succeed. The negative part was that there were hardly any women in leadership positions. When I had kids and was raising them, there was no technology like we have today – no FaceTime or Zoom, even cell phones were just coming along. There was no way to keep in touch with your family. In a way, technology has built a great support system.