Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi Insists Women Can’t Have It All

Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi at the World Economic Forum | Source: WikiMedia

Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi at the World Economic Forum | Source: WikiMedia

Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi thinks that women can’t have it all. She might be right, but it’s not because we’re women. It’s because we’re human, and work-life balance is tough for anyone to maintain. In a conversation with Atlantic Media, she confessed that she doesn’t necessarily think she’s a good mother. On her self-proclaimed bad parenting, she sighed, “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.”

She added that family planning is difficult when you’re a honcho as well. “My observation … is that the biological clock and the career clock are in total conflict with each other. Total, complete conflict. 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, they need you for the teenage years. And that’s the time your husband becomes a teenager too, so he needs you. They need you too. What do you do? And as you grow even more, your parents need you because they’re aging. So we’re screwed.” Fair enough, but–wait a second, though: Whose husband becomes a teenager? What does that mean? Did she marry a toddler? What the Hell is happening here?

Nooyi claims that in order to have work-life balance, you have to let them basically bleed into one another. Which, well, means you have no work-life balance. Her advice? “Train people at work. Train your family to be your extended family. 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? You can’t.”

Meh. This is all very “meh.” If you plan, adjust, plan some more, and understand that not every woman wants all the same things and that “it all” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, it’s quite possible to have it all. And if her job as the Pepsi CEO is really three full-time jobs rolled into one, that’s an issue that Pepsico needs to address. Because if her job is really being that difficult for her, maybe she’ll never have it all. And maybe what she should have is a conversation with Coca-Cola. And if her kids say she’s not a good mom, maybe she isn’t, because she apparently raised a few ingrates.

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