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Women can’t have it all: Nooyi

New York, July 3 (PTI): PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, counted among the world’s most powerful women and a mother of two daughters, believes women “can’t have it all”.

“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,” Nooyi said at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado this week in reply to a question.

Nooyi, 58, said she died “with guilt” when she missed activities at her daughters’ school because she could not take time off from work.        

“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,” she said.        

Gradually, she said, she learnt to cope. “You have to cope, because you die with guilt. You just die with guilt.”

Nooyi, the fifth CEO in PepsiCo’s 44-year history, said: “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.... What do you do? And as you grow even more, your parents need you because they’re aging…. We cannot have it all.”

Nooyi, who was raised in India and studied at IIM Calcutta before going to Yale, recounted the day 14 years ago when she was told she would be made president of PepsiCo and be named to the board of directors.

“I was overwhelmed, because look at my background and where I came from — to be president of an iconic American company and to be on the board of directors, I thought something special had happened to me,” she said.

But when she went home to break the “great news”, her mother told her: “Let the news wait. Can you go out and get some milk.”        

Nooyi, who is married for 34 years, recalled her mother telling her: “Let me explain something to you. You might be president of PepsiCo. You might be on the board of directors. But when you enter this house, you’re the wife, you’re the daughter, you’re the daughter-in-law, you’re the mother. You’re all of that. Nobody else can take that place. So leave that damned crown in the garage. And don’t bring it into the house. You know I’ve never seen that crown.”