Business woman of the week: Indra Nooyi

(Photo by : RAN)

CEO of PepsiCo and Advocate of gender equality in business

After 12 years of working for PepsiCo, in 2006 Indra Nooyi became the first female CEO and was later recognized by both Fortune and Forbes magazine as the 3rd most powerful businesswoman on the planet.  Since claiming Pepsi’s highest managerial position, the annual net profit has more than doubled, increasing from $2.7 billion to $6.5 billion.

Nooyi has been responsible for molding the global strategy of the brand, helping to acquire Tropicana in 1998 and encouraging the merger with Quaker Oats Company in 2002. She has also reshaped the entire business model so much so that it would be unidentifiable with the original company structure. This is through her motivation to transfer corporate spending into making PepsiCo the healthy alternative within its market. She was the driving force behind the ‘better for you’ initiative creating low-fat variations of both drinks and snacks.

However, such prosperity and triumph didn’t manifest straight away, growing up in a city obsessed with established morals and traditional values. Living in Madras, India the importance of marrying a financially reliable husband was emphasized daily and experience of male suppression in the workplace was common and accepted. Nooyi recalls being questioned and undermined in meetings, with male colleagues believing her gender caused incompetence and a lack of expertise. Even when she became CEO of Pepsi, she was reminded not to forget her role as a mother and loyal wife.

Slowly but surely, with a confidence, an incredible work ethic and a powerful managerial position, she began to speak out for workplace equality:

“Look at graduating seniors from colleges, more than 50 percent are women. More than 50 percent!”

“So if you really want companies to be successful, we can’t say ‘Hey, we are going to exclude a portion of the population.'”

These statements form part of her outstanding performance at PepsiCo and give a more personal value to her global recognition as an appreciated international businesswoman. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go and the process is a continuous one. Pay gaps prevail across the globe, with the average figure around 17% in 2009 and men still possess over 2/3 of high ranking positions within US companies. Although, we cannot disregard how 27 percent of senior executives at PepsiCo are now female, a figure Nooyi could only dream of attaining and one were sure she is determined to proliferate.

By Zoe Allison

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