PepsiCo CEO Says Women Can’t Have It All

“[I}f you ask our daughters, I’m not sure they will say that I’ve been a good mom.” Indra Nooyi raises eyebrows with a blunt and surprisingly personal assessment of her role as a mother in the workplace.

Indra Nooyi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo. Ruben Sprich / Reuters

In a talk earlier this week at the Aspen Ideas Festival, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi said she doesn’t believe women can “have it all,” and that women have to sacrifice some aspects of motherhood in order to have a career.

“I don’t think women can have it all. I just don’t think so,” she said during an interview with Atlantic Media Company owner David Bradley. “We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all.”

The mom of two went on:

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.

Nooyi, who has been married for 34 years, said she believes the biological clock and the career clock are “are in total conflict with each other.”

“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,” she said, adding with a laugh, “And that’s the time your husband becomes a teenager too, so he needs you.”

But Nooyi knows she isn’t the only career-oriented mom, and when her daughter made her feel guilty for missing a school function, the CEO found a sneaky method to point out that a lot of women are in the same difficult position.

My daughter would come home and she would list off all the mothers that were there and say, “You were not there, mom.”

The first few times, I would die with guilt. But I developed coping mechanisms. I called the school and I said, “Give me a list of mothers that are not there.” So when she came home in the evening she said, “You were not there, you were not there.”

And I said, “Ah ha, Mrs. Redd wasn’t there, Mrs. So-and-so wasn’t there. So I’m not the only bad mother.”

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