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Indra Nooyi and the endangered woman C.E.O.

In an interview earlier this year, Indra Nooyi, C.E.O. of PepsiCo, made some comments on men, women, and snacks. “You see how many young people eat fries,” she said in a performance broadcast on the podcast “Freakonomics Radio.” “They love their Doritos and lick their fingers happily when they reach the bottom of the bag, pouring the little broken pieces into their mouths, because they do not want to lose that taste, and the broken fries in the ground” The Women, “said Nooyi, “were different. “They do not like to crack loud in public,” she said. “And they do not lick their fingers generously, and they do not like pouring the little bits and the taste into their mouths.”

She went on to explain that PepsiCo, a $ 100 billion company with dozens of well-known brands, including Mountain Dew, Gatorade, Ruffles and Tropicana, aimed to develop a product similar to Doritos. towards the consumers. Such a product would be less chaotic, easier to eat, and especially in bags that are small enough to fit in a purse. “Because women like to carry a snack in their purse,” Nooyi said.

These comments were criticized as sexist. (I have not heard it, I would be interested in a snack that does not leave your hands greasy and covered with a bright orange powder.) But the controversy over eating habits has missed a point More importantly, Nooyi is one of the few women is the head of a big American company, and the issues of gender inequality are as high on the corporate ladder as elsewhere in our society. Women make up less than five percent of European companies in large state-owned enterprises; on average, they are paid less than their male counterparts; and they tend to disproportionately analyze their looks and comments in the wind. All this makes the complex task of running a business even more difficult. Monday, Nooyi announced that in October, after twelve years in the role of PepsiCos C.E.O. With their departure, only 23 women leave occupy prominent positions in companies Index S. & P. ​​500 Index.

Nooyi’s personal story is remarkable. She grew up in Chennai, India, in a middle-class family. When she was young, her mother encouraged her to be academically ambitious by regularly taking Nooyi for an exercise that she imagined was the prime minister or another world leader giving a speech. But her mother was also very traditional and insisted that girls marry at the age of 18. But instead of marrying young, Nooyi made a scholarship in the United States to study at Yale Business School. She then spent several years as a management consultant before a recruiter called PepsiCo in 1994, where Nooyi became head of corporate strategy. Two of their initiatives – the takeover of Tropicana by PepsiCo and Quaker Oats, owners of Gatorade – were considered major achievements, bringing the company to new types of customers beyond soda-sinkers. In 2006, Nooyi, after serving as the company’s chief financial officer and president, became C. E. O. This year, ten women were Fortune 500 companies.

It was a difficult moment: the impending financial crisis and the brutal reaction against junk food and soda would put extreme pressure on PepsiCo and other processed food manufacturers. More consumers prefer sports drinks, ice tea, electrolysis water and smoothies as lemonades. Nooyi ran a campaign to rethink PepsiCo and move the company to healthier locations by buying Naked Juice and Sabra (which produces humus and other food products), selling water in high-quality bottles, and developing low-sugar Pepsi. She sought to position PepsiCo as a responsible corporate citizen and use the company’s resources to promote healthy eating habits.

Despite the lack of women in big companies, Nooyi’s departure is part of a trend: In recent months, Denise Morrison, Campbell Soup Company; Margo Georgiadis de Mattel; Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard Enterprise; and Irene Rosenfeld from Mondelez have given up their work. This is a 20 percent decline in female women.

There is no legitimate reason for this situation. More women than men now have university degrees and about as many women as men work. But after a few years, men earn more than their female counterparts and start working faster. (Inequality is even worse for colored women.) However, according to a 2017 study by and McKinsey & Company, many men believe that gender equality at work has already been achieved. The study identified several other blatant problems. Women are not only promoted to the same extent as men, they also receive less mentoring and other forms of professional support. Parenting pays much more for the career advancement of women than for men. Recent revelations of sexual harassment have highlighted the spread of the problem in many industries. Other studies have highlighted a phenomenon called “glass cliff”, suggesting that women are often C.E.O. Jobs are only after a company already has problems to make them fail. (Marissa Mayer, former CEO of Google, who was named CEO of Yahoo in 2012, is an oft-cited example.) To tackle this thorny list of challenges requires a combination of political and cultural change, but the most important factor men can do Go to work to see the problem.

Until there are more women in responsible positions, the position of the female leader is likely to be one of the most difficult and lonely. “If you are a woman and you are a woman, you will be looked at differently.” “They’re a different standard, it’s not a question,” Nooyi said during the interview with “Freakonomics.” “I think this group of women, CEOs, we all go through, and as the numbers are growing – and I hope they do – we hope that no one sees us as CEO women, but only as a leader, I hope that day will come sooner or later. “Nooyi’s successor will be Ramon Laguarta, a two-decade-old veteran of the company and also a man.