Akris Woman with Purpose, Indra Nooyi, has proven that with talent, hard work, and determination, you can make it to the top of one of the world's biggest companies.
As the CEO of PepsiCo, she was consistently ranked among the World's 100 Most Powerful Women. When she took over this position in 2006, she was the first female immigrant to lead a Fortune 500 company and only one of 11 women.
There are now 41 women on that list, but most of America's biggest listed businesses are still run by men. In her recently published memoir My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future, Nooyi observes, "The pipeline is not just leaky, but broken", and argues that supporting women and family builders must be central to our discussions about the future of work.
We talked with Indra Nooyi about her new book, needed change, and the power of fashion.
In your recently published book, you refer to your "moonshot" pitch to bring more women into the workforce. What are the key elements of it?
It is about what it's going to take for states to put in available, affordable, quality childcare for young family builders. I say "young family builders" because it is both men and women who jointly should own the responsibility for child rearing.
There's another line from the book that we would love to hear more about. You are writing about the unique challenges that women face in the workplace, and you say women’s voices are too high or too low, they are seen as too short or too tall…to be great leaders.
Women are always given some sort of a badge, but men are not. The ideal worker was seen as a man and therefore everybody got comfortable with that. Everything was in reference to men. And this is wrong. In this kind of situations, I would always lean in and say: what does it matter if she said something in a different tonality than a man did? What she said was very good. Always come back to the content as opposed to the style.
What does it take to change people's perception of women in that way?
More women in the workforce. The second is more men who come to the table and say, we want our company to move forward, we need talented people and we should not care whether they are male, female, different ethnicities. We want the best and the brightest.
Did you feel that wearing Akris helped you present yourself in kind of the way you wanted to be perceived?
It gave me a beautiful, tailored look, in which no longer did I have to feel uncomfortable about the fact that I was a woman or an immigrant or a person or color, there I was, this elegantly turned out person. They say clothes make the man, clothes do make a woman too, if it is the right clothes. And Akris was the right clothes for me.
Find more inspiration at Indra Nooyi's MasterClass on how to lead with purpose.