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On Indra Nooyi And The Trouble With Having It All

Posted: July 12, 2014

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi has got a lot of press recently for her interview on why women can’t have it all. A contrarian point of view.

When one of most powerful women in business says “Women can’t have it all” and states examples from her own life, there’s bound to be some fireworks. I’ve been hearing and reading variations of “OH MY GOD, I can’t believe she said that!” being thrown at Ms. Nooyi from all over and I thought it’s time for me to get in on the action.

Can women really have it all, can we delude ourselves into believing that we have successfully conquered every frontier there is – personal, professional, spiritual, sexual…et al? Is today’s woman like Alexander the Great who when at his peak finally wept saying, “There are no more worlds for me to conquer! BOO-FREAKING-HOO!” I jest, ladies, but trust me I have a point hidden somewhere.

Why do we crucify a woman for speaking her version of the truth? Remember that Ms. Nooyi was not born a CEO; she had to climb the ladder like everyone else and she probably had an overbearing mother who decided to fasten 20 pound dumbbells on her ankles just to check if her daughter really had the chops to climb all the way to the top. Well, the daughter did make it to the top and on the way had to endure guilt trips that probably scarred her psyche much more than any permanent damage her career did to her daughters upbringing.

I have to hand it to Ms. Nooyi for speaking the truth – remember ladies, the truth really does set you free! (Satyameve Jayate and all that eh.) When you speak the truth you don’t have the pressure of fine tuning your speeches so that it’s more acceptable to what women everywhere want to hear.

It would have sounded narcissistic and a little creepy if she had said “Women can have it all, look at me, I am the perfect mother who’s always been there for my children, a loving wife whose husband is completely satisfied with the attention I give him, I have surpassed all the career goals I set for myself and  I love my mom and we never have fights so I just cannot imagine why this is not possible for every single woman in the world. Gosh, what a bunch of losers these underperforming women are!”

She’s a normal woman who is sometimes unsure of herself but in spite of it all has managed to be the very best in her chosen field.

The fact that Ms. Nooyi recognized that there are aspects of her personal life that she could not attend to and has regrets and even doubts her parental ability is endearing. She’s a normal woman who is sometimes unsure of herself but in spite of it all has managed to be the very best in her chosen field.

Being a working mother myself, there are many times I have felt inadequate when I see women cook wonderful meals, keep beautiful houses, attend to their kid’s every need (and not dump them to the nearest day care) and do all this without breaking a sweat (except when they are working out to keep their lovely post-kids figure or sweating it out in the sauna to keep their glowing complexion!).

I am terrible at time management; I am sometimes worse than a sloth on weekends and let’s just say I have a long way to go when it comes to weight management. I am aware of these deficiencies and see myself as a work in progress. If all of humanity is a work in progress, can the modern day working woman be far behind?

I am genuinely happy for women who proclaim to all (who would care to lend a ear) that “We have done it all and we have it all” but still a word of caution – let’s leave the mindless chest thumping and bragging to the men. We women are way more mature and wise, we continually upgrade ourselves to the next best thing and never become smug and complacent and realize that ‘Life is always a journey and never a destination’ which in Ms. Nooyi’s case we are assuming is a CEO with a picture perfect family and a life with no regrets.

Pic credit: sigurdas (Used under a CC license)

About the Author: Roopa Prabhakar describes herself as a mother, a working woman who believes her face is plastered on the glass ceiling, a closet feminist and writer.

What is Domestic Violence & How to report domestic Violence - घरेलु हिंसा से बचाव (in Hindi)



  1. Dr Mrs Sushma Joiya Pandit -

    Milk is at the brink of boiling, be careful, it may not come out of the pan and go as waste.
    We have to be careful now. The present circumstances has motivated the female society
    to come out as a factor of equality and start earning for socio-economic development.
    Now the time has come to amend the society which is preventing the female society to progress. Take the case of Ms Indira Nooyi, she in spite of having odd circumstances in the family came out and has risen to the top position for which she deserve saluting and appreciation.
    The female society intend to go for higher studies but the parents stop her to do so because of the surrounding society. If she goes to college in the morning and comes back in the evening the society raises hundred and one questions with the result the girl is compelled to discontinue the studies and sits at home. We will have to change the ideology of the society to make the ladies self dependent.

  2. Hey. Agree with you.
    Especially, the upgrading part.

  3. Very well said Roopa, when I saw the article yesterday criticising Mrs. Indira Nooyi, I wanted to say the same thing. She is not just an ordinary 9 to 5 working lady. She is handling a big empire and yes to reach there she had to sacrifice many things or to put it in a right manner, she had to make a choice. I am also a working mother and living through the guilt of not spending much time with my kid, not being the ideal wife a husband would dream of or a perfect homemaker daughter-in-law, in-laws want me to be.

    But again its a matter of choice, and even I sometimes do feel bad when I see my friends who can cook many wonderful dishes, who keeps their house too clean and beautiful, who spends their afternoons with their kids and evenings taking them to the park. Had I had the extra time and choice, I would have loved to do that but I had to make a choice of balancing many things,

    It is really not possible to do all the roles perfectly, the best thing one can do is to give justice to every aspect. And if you want to compare with men, the kids would not expect the same thing from their dads what is expected from their moms. I think and most of the women would not want their husbands also to be behaving as a househusband only because they are working more hours than the husbands.

    I do really admire Mrs. Nooyi for being so focussed and successful and also for being frank.

    • Sonia, what is wrong with helping out a busy wife????

    • Ujwala. .. there is no harm. And maj husb do it. But to be honest… If it becomes quite often, they will definitely loose their patience. Some men say that and some do not.
      Personally I can sit and relax if my husband is in the kitchen washing and cleaning.

    • Thanks Sonia, I agree that you cannot do all the roles perfectly so could not understand why people got so worked up when Ms Nooyi stated the same.They say Imperfect life is reality and there is such a thing as Perfectly Imperfect! 🙂

  4. I am thankful to Indra Nooyi that she shared her life experience. She has given confidence to many working moms, working wife, working daughter-in-laws who come out of their houses everyday.

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