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Indra Nooyi on why women can’t have it all

(Photo by Matthew Staver/Bloomberg)


The Aspen Ideas Festival is winding down its annual confab today, with speakers ranging from Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust talking about what it takes to get into Harvard to Hillary Clinton sounding off about the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision.

But we can't let the week close without highlighting remarks from PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, who got pretty personal at the festival earlier this week, sharing how she manages work-life balance and why she believes women can't really have it all.

In a discussion with David Bradley, who owns The AtlanticNooyi described how important it is for working mothers to enlist the help of others and to have coping mechanisms in place to deal with the inevitable guilt. "If you ask our daughters, I'm not sure they will say that I've been a good mom," Nooyi admitted.

In the interview, she described how, after her daughter complained Nooyi didn't go to her school's "class coffee" for mothers, she called the school to ask for a list of mothers who weren't there and shared that with her daughter. ("I'm not the only bad mother," she said.) Nooyi also explained how she gave her secretary an explicit list of questions — such as, "Have you finished your homework?" — to ask her daughters when they called the office for permission to play Nintendo.

And Nooyi recounts how, on the night she was named president of the company years ago, she came home to share the good news and her mother told her to go to the store and buy the family some milk. It was meant to be a reminder of her responsibilities at home. "Leave that damned crown in the garage," her mother told her. "And don't bring it into the house." 

It's rare to hear a female CEO as powerful as Nooyi speak so openly, and so credibly, about the struggle to balance her professional and personal life. The work-life part of her discussion starts a little past the 22-minute mark, and is well worth a listen.


Read also:

Have a job you love? Thank your mother

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Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.



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Jena McGregor · July 3, 2014

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