Woman can have it all — if families pitch in

July 2, 2014

Indra Nooyi, chairman and chief executive of PepsiCo

In an interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival Monday, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi was asked about whether women can have it all (because what else would a CEO be asked to talk about other than her children?). She gave some very honest answers. While a lot of people latched on to the fact that she’s not sure her daughters will think she was a good mom, the much more important excerpt is the story she tells of the night she found out she was going to become the president of PepsiCo (emphasis mine):

Rather than stay and work until midnight which I normally would’ve done because I had so much work to do, I decided to go home and share the good news with my family. I got home about 10, got into the garage, and my mother was waiting at the top of the stairs. And I said, “Mom, I’ve got great news for you.” She said, “let the news wait. Can you go out and get some milk?” I looked in the garage and it looked like my husband was home. I said, “what time did he get home?” She said “8 o’clock.” I said, “Why didn’t you ask him to buy the milk?” “He’s tired.” Okay. We have a couple of help at home, “why didn’t you ask them to get the milk?” She said, “I forgot.” She said just get the milk. We need it for the morning. So like a dutiful daughter, I went out and got the milk and came back.

I banged it on the counter and I said, “I had great news for you. I’ve just been told that I’m going to be president on the Board of Directors. And all that you want me to do is go out and get the milk, what kind of a mom are you?” And she said to me, “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.”

If you want to know why there are not more female executives in the world, this is the story. I doubt that many women get this message so blatantly put out there for them by their families, but the duty to be the caregiver is implicit in our culture. That message is hammered home in every sitcom, every family movie, every advertisement.

I don’t know how Nooyi’s daughters feel about her. I do know that if anyone else in her house had gone to go get milk that night, she would have had an extra half hour to spend with them. Women can’t have it all if they are expected to do it all.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Note the Big ‘IF’. There are only 24 hours in one day. Super Woman is a myth.

Posted by Whosethat | Report as abusive


Posted by euro-yank | Report as abusive

So Indra Nooyi happens to have a jerk for a mother. Indra needs to stand up to her and not tolerate being a doormat. Perhaps tell her mother to go out and get the milk.

Posted by Randy549 | Report as abusive

To each their own however our existence and its perpetuance are a burden of the natural world, which has created roles that we are still not privy as to why each of us find ourselves in one or the other. Choosing to separate oneself from this responsibility, or partially, is a free choice, and respected by others, yet those of us that choose to accept the responsibility I feel, do not support the promotion of such a direction, of individual satisfaction as a higher calling.

Posted by ANZUS | Report as abusive

You know what the compliment to ALL is? It’s NOTHING.

You do the math.

Posted by BioStudies | Report as abusive

I have argued many times for the points made in this article, but there is one thing the author didn’t mention. If successful women need someone to replace them in the role of caregiver, men need more incentives to forfeit their place as primary earner. You cannot just ask men to be homebodies and carers while offering no kind of protection of this position – men will not accept the deal if they have to give up their careers while knowing their position as a parent isn’t protected by law. This means women must relinquish their place as the primary carer for their children – and in the event of divorce or separation, give up child custody and accept the responsibility of still providing financial support.

Are women willing to take the risk men do when they start a family, knowing that in the case of divorce they can lose their children and be separated from them? I haven’t heard many women’s opinions on this so hard to say. One thing that has always been true is that you can’t have your cake and eat it.

Posted by helloway | Report as abusive

There’s no such thing as having it all. No one can cover two jobs effectively. One is going to suffer in all actuality then both suffer. There by having nothing. Either do one or the other but don’t sit and whine about it because your a WOMAN! Geez what a cop out. If you have kids they are your responsibility. Getting milk is just one of those things you have to do. Did you have kids expecting them to do your job for you??? What kind of mother stays out and works till ten anyway? Not a very good one is the answer to that. Its no suprise your self interest in your own job and CROWN are far more important than the time you are supposed to be using to raise your kids. You only have so much time for kids and then they are grown and gone. Those are the things that will outlast and really mean something over any kind of JOB. If you didn’t want the hassle of milk then why have the kids? Amazing. I can imagine how your relationship with your husband is doing as well. No time for him either I bet. Why even bother with a family life at all. Sure women can work have big jobs but don’t blame all your issues and what YOU make more important in your lives on everyone else for your self serving endeavors. I’m surprised more blame wasn’t put on the man of the house now its blaming the kids as well. NICE!!! You wanted equal well equal is what you get. There’s no crying in equal!!!! Either buck up and do em both or choose one and sacrifice the other. Seems you already have done that tho. Too bad for the kids and husband.

Posted by BOBROB | Report as abusive

Women aren’t expected to do it all, that’s the point. Women are expected to fulfill the role they were meant for, which is the caretaker. When a woman decides to add to that role they add to their own amount of work voluntarily. Is it healthy for our kids to be raised by daycares because both of their parents are working? The duty of a woman as caretaker is not “implied by our culture” it is God-given. Both man and woman have their respective, and equal, roles to play. The more we get away from that the more issues we will see in society.

Posted by Bastiattheman | Report as abusive

w/out family support it is indeed very difficult for a woman to work and achieve heights as she is expected to be perfect in all walks of life.

Posted by meev | Report as abusive

Or may be if crèches at workplaces a rule not an exception http://www.greenpeacex.in/petitions/make -creches-at-workplaces-a-rule-not-an-exc eption

Posted by PrachiMishra | Report as abusive