Woman can’t have it all, says top CEO

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Indra Nooyi reu REUTERS Indra Nooyi during a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos in January, 2014. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

London - With her stellar career, £7.3million salary, 34-year marriage and two much-loved children, there doesn’t seem to be much missing from Indra Nooyi’s life.

But despite appearances, the CEO of PepsiCo insists that women can’t have it all – and can only ‘pretend’ to.

Nooyi, who is ranked at number 13 on this year’s Forbes list of the world’s most powerful women, says she has sacrificed relationships to get ahead at work and ‘dies with guilt’ over the compromises she makes to balance her career with her family life.

The 58-year-old even described enlisting her secretary to control how much time her daughters spent playing video games.

She said: ‘I don’t think women can have it all, I just don’t think so. We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all.

‘My husband and I have been married for 34 years. And we have two daughters. And every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother. In fact, many times during the day you have to make those decisions.

‘And you have to co-opt a lot of people to help you. We co-opted our families to help us. We plan our lives meticulously so we can be decent parents.

‘But if you ask our daughters, I’m not sure they will say that I’ve been a good mom. I’m not sure. And I try all kinds of coping mechanisms.

‘You know, you have to cope, because you die with guilt.’

Her comments echo those of Facebook CEO and mother-of-two Sheryl Sandberg, who said earlier this year that there is no such thing as a work-life balance, adding: ‘There’s work, and there’s life, and there’s no balance.’

At the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, Nooyi, who studied business at Yale University, also suggested a woman’s ‘biological clock and career clock are in total, complete conflict with each other’. She said: ‘When you have to have kids, you have to build your career. Just as you’re rising to middle management, your kids need you because they’re teenagers.

‘The person who hurts the most through this whole thing is your spouse. There’s no question about it. You know, [husband] Raj always said, you know what, your list is PepsiCo, PepsiCo, PepsiCo, our two kids, your mom, and then at the bottom of the list is me.’

She joked: ‘There are two ways to look at it. You should be happy you’re on the list. So don’t complain. He is on the list. He is very much on the list.’

Nooyi also described how she needed to outsource parenting tasks to her receptionist to make sure her daughters did not spend too much time playing video games. She said: ‘I travel a lot, and when my kids were tiny, especially my second one, we had strict rules on playing Nintendo. She’d call the office, and she didn’t care if I was in China, Japan, India, wherever.’

The Pepsi boss said she gave her secretary a list of questions to ask her daughter before she could have permission to play the games.

She explained: ‘She goes through the questions and she says, “Okay, you can play Nintendo half an hour.” Then she leaves me a message. “Tyra called at five. This is the sequence of questions I went through. I’ve given her permission.” So it’s seamless parenting.

‘But if you don’t do that, I’m serious, if you don’t develop mechanisms with your secretaries, with the extended office, with everybody around you, it cannot work.

‘You know, stay at home mothering was a full-time job. Being a CEO for a company is three full-time jobs rolled into one. How can you do justice to all?’ - Daily Mail


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