Jan. 2, 2023

Indra Nooyi’s Advice for the Business Leaders of Tomorrow

Former PepsiCo CEO discusses the future of business with Nora


We can always use examples of inspiring leadership. That’s why we’re turning to a conversation from 2022. Indra Nooyi is a trailblazing executive who served as chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo for 12 years, becoming the first South Asian woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. In this conversation, Indra joins Nora and discusses equity and inclusion in the workplace and how to best support the workers of tomorrow—from the care infrastructure to hybrid workplaces, to communicating effectively, and even preventing burnout. You can read more about Indra’s journey in her New York Times bestselling memoir, My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future.

 

Hosts: Nora Ali

Producer: Bella Hutchins 

Production, Mixing & Sound Design: Daniel Markus

Music: Daniel Markus & Breakmaster Cylinder

Senior Producer: Katherine Milsop

 

Full transcripts for all Business Casual episodes available at https://businesscasual.fm

Transcript

Nora Ali: For Morning Brew, this is Business Casual, bringing you convos with people you know and some you may not know yet, to make business less intimidating. Because money talks, but it does not have to be dull. I'm your host, Nora Ali. Now let's get down to business.

I am so excited to bring you one of my favorite conversations probably ever. Back in March 2022, I got a chance to sit down with a role model of mine, Indra Nooyi. She's the trailblazing executive who served as a chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo for 12 years, becoming the first South Asian woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. Indra came to the US from India in 1978 to pursue a higher education at Yale, and that happens to be the same year my mother, a Bangladeshi immigrant, arrived in the US for graduate school. Needless to say, it was a very personal conversation, and many of the topics we covered in this convo are still relevant today: burnout, hustle culture, balancing work and family life. Indra gives a holistic perspective on leadership, ensuring we maintain the humanity in our actions. She has long been an advocate for equity and inclusion, and continues that work to this day. A conversation you don't want to miss that is coming up after the break.

In preparation for this conversation, I consumed a lot of Indra Nooyi content. I am an over-preparer like you. I read your book, obviously, via audiobook; mostly previous interviews; in-person events. The most striking thing about you is that you are a captivating speaker, but you're not loud. You don't flail your arms, you're not boisterous. I have never seen such engaged audiences as when you speak. And this is a question I get a lot. So what is your secret to being an engaging public speaker, whether it's on a stage or in a conference room, or on an interview like this?

Indra Nooyi: I've never had this question asked of me before, Nora, so I want to give you a thoughtful answer. I'm going to tell you what I think it is rather than "This is it," okay? Because I don't know—you should ask people. I think first of all, I know my material, and when I talk about it, I talk about it both from my head and my heart because I feel the material, I feel the consequences of what I'm going to be saying, and I want to make change happen. At every point, any question that's asked of me, I'm trying to think of a way to give you an authentic, deep answer as opposed to what's the answer that my PR firms have given me to sort of mouth off. 

I come across as, she cares about us. She cares about making the world a better place, rather than she's just a figurehead. I think that makes a huge difference. I'm not afraid to talk about it. Yesterday somebody asked me, when I was appearing on Juggernaut, "Are you afraid just before you get on stage?" I said no. "Why not? Why aren't you afraid?" Because I'm not saying something different for each audience; I'm saying the same thing, but I'm saying it from the heart based on my experiences and the whole truth.

Nora Ali: Speaking from your heart. You also know when to stop a thought, which I appreciate. Lots of people ramble and don't know how to land the sentence plane. I very much appreciate that. So your book, My Life in Full, touches deeply on this issue of care, which I think is your biggest personal mission at this point. Early in it you address the idea that many young people, worried about how they'll manage it all, are choosing not to have children. Why does that worry you right now?

Indra Nooyi: For two reasons. One, I think that when I had my children, I felt love from the deepest part of me. I knew it was a tether. I knew children were a tether, but it was a beautiful tether. And even now, I look at my kids, Nora, and I have an outpouring of love that I can't explain. And to the extent that other people feel this way, I want them to feel that experience of love from the deepest part of you. So that's my emotional reaction. Let me give you the others. I think we need young people so that we can keep growing. If we don't have young people, how are we going to support the aged? How are we going to pay into our pension plans? How are we going to build future consumers? 

We need young people. How do we get people for our future workforce? I think we need young people, and we need to encourage families to have them. Finally, families are our biggest support through thick and thin. Most families are our biggest support. If we don't have families, who do we have to fall back on? Who's going to provide us that emotional support when we need it? I think families, if properly nurtured and developed, can be an incredible source of support and strength for you in your old age, and prevent loneliness.

Nora Ali: You've said that solving this issue of care will take moonshot thinking, but moonshot thinking often takes a lot of time to solve systemically. You've had wonderful intergenerational systems to help, with your kids to support you. You even were encouraged to rest, because your family rejected this notion that you as the mother also had to make sure people were fed, happy and content in your family. But for young people who might not have this luxury of a preexisting intergenerational system, what are some tangible steps they can take themselves now to ensure that they are set up for success, should they choose to have kids and families in the near future?

Indra Nooyi: That's, again, another very insightful question, because many people do not have that intergenerational support. They don't live in multigenerational families because they just don't want to, or because the families are in different parts of the country or the world. So these are all practical realities. I think that when I use the word "family, "you can look at two kinds of family. One is your blood relatives or people you grew up with. That's one kind of family. That's the kind of family I had supporting me. I also had another kind of family supporting me: my next door neighbor, friends, people in the office. I think we have to go back and build community connections. For some reason we've lost trust in each other, in our communities, and we have to build community connections so we can help each other out. 

There's a great book by Eric Klinenberg called Palaces for the People. He talks about how in the old days, barbershops, libraries, civic centers, coffee shops, were all palaces for the people, where the community got together and built linkages and relationships. We have to find the new version of all of these so that communities can lean on each other for help.

Nora Ali: Are you worried at all that we will have less of a sense of in-person community with the rise of hybrid and remote work, with conversations around the metaverse and Web3 and virtual worlds? Or is that maybe a way to foster even more diverse communities?

Indra Nooyi: I think when you talk about the future of work, we might replace the community at work with the community in our community. I hope that happens because you spend more time at home. You are out there talking to people in the community, or if you're going for a walk at a time when you're taking your breaks. I hope one gets replaced with the other. Or I'd add to it and say, I hope you now have two communities: one at work and one at home. But the problem is when you start to interact with the computer a little too much and you think your community is the avatars on a game or in the computer, that's when the "human" of humanity starts to get diminished. And I worry about that because I don't think we know yet what happens if you diminish that human connection. So I'd find ways for people to have more human connection. If I were a gaming company, I'd be thinking about games that bring humans together as humans, really. Augmented with other video games, but bring humans back together.

Nora Ali: Maybe that's a post PepsiCo career trajectory for you, is creating games. So back to this issue of care, for some of us who might not be thinking about childcare right now, there instead is this perhaps issue of elder care where we're thinking about our aging parents and our aging relatives. And when you were working at BCG, the company gave you paid leave to take care of your sick father, and you said it would've curtailed your career had you not gotten that paid leave. But on top of that, I think what's most important is that BCG initiated that process. Why was it so important for the company to take that step?

Indra Nooyi: In that year, 1982, I had no idea what paid leave was, and BCG had no policy on paid leave. They had never had to encounter this. Or even if they did, I don't know how they reacted. I have no idea. I was a two-year consultant, too new. I was the only person of color in the office. There were so many things new about me, and I didn't know how to go ask for any vacation, leave alone paid vacation. I would've been happy with just leave. 

It's just that BCG reached out. And subsequently when I asked them why they did it, Carl Stern, the partner, just looked at me. I asked him this recently. He said, "Indra, it's a human issue. Your father was dying and you needed to be with him. It's a human issue. Why even think of it as a policy issue?" So I come back, in today's terms, paid leave has to be looked at as a human issue, and the minute we push it into the political arena or all kinds of partisan arenas, we lose the humanity again. It's a human issue. And people have children. When mothers and fathers have to bond with a young child, when you have a sick parent, aging parent to take care of, again, don't abuse the paid leave, but make sure you have it when you need it the most.

Nora Ali: And it comes back to that humanity. And it is very clear from your book and hearing you speak that family has always come first for you. But also at certain points in your career, you would spend three to four nights away from home in a week and spend weekends crunching numbers, writing presentations, and you had called this an intellectual high but a physical low. But now, spurred in part by the pandemic, there are conflicting ideologies on so-called hustle culture, where one can't believe you have to always go, go, go; have multiple streams of income; ensure that on top of your job you're also building your brand and your social media following. And there's this other camp that believes we shouldn't take life for granted and just slow down, be present, focus on happiness and health. What is your view on hustle culture, as someone who is very used to, I think, hustling?

Indra Nooyi: The truth is somewhere in between. I don't think you need to go all the way to hustle culture and FOMO and be in with everything that's happening in society. Produce five TikTok videos a week. You don't have to do that. At the same time, if you want to be engaged in paid work, if you want to earn a living wage, a good salary for the education you've had, completely disconnecting doesn't work. The office is not a place to give you lots of vacation. You have to do your job too. You have to contribute. So I think people shouldn't think that "I need paid leave for six months to do A, I need another maternity leave on top of the paid leave, and I need to do C, D, and E. And incidentally, you've got to keep my job open so when I come back I can walk into it."

It's not practical. We still have companies to run. I think that whenever we talk about paid leave, when we talk about flexibility, it's got to be talked about in a sensible way. There's responsibilities of companies, there's responsibility for employees. You've got to think and say, "Am I putting the company in jeopardy? Should I tell the company, go ahead and backfill my job? When I come back, I'm sure you'll have a job for me somewhere." Rather than say, "You've got to hold my job open," because sometimes you might have to take a year off to take care of an aging parent. 

I had an incident happen to me in PepsiCo when somebody was going off to take care of an aging parent, and I told them to go ahead and take the time off, and the rest of the work group would pick up the job. The rest of the work group came to see me and said, "Indra, we are already overworked. Now if you ask us to take on all the responsibility of the person that's left, how are we going to balance our lives?" That's a human issue too. I think we have to think about all of these issues on a case by case basis very carefully, and make sure that the person who's struggling has the support, but the people who are carrying the burden in the interim also have the additional support. So we have to make sure we deal with this very, very carefully.

Nora Ali: We're going to take a quick break. More when we come back. One of the pressures that drives me as a child of immigrants is the pressure to impress my parents, my family, my community. It is so common amongst children of immigrants that I've spoken to, where they're always looking for the next big thing, the next big milestone. So really, the community can gossip about our success. And you've had to represent and impress very large communities, whether it's all of India, your own family, female executives, executives of color, immigrants in the workplace. When you became CEO at PepsiCo—I love this story in your book—you visited India. Visitors congratulated your mom more than they congratulated you, and they said "You've done such a great job of raising Indra." Do you feel driven yourself by these outside forces and high expectations, or have you been able to be focused on what is actually best for Indra?

Indra Nooyi: I focused on what's best for Indra and PepsiCo, because if I keep focusing on the outside pressures, then I'm busy figuring out how to make myself be seen by those people, how to sort of build an image for myself with those people. That can be the result. It cannot be the driver. The job can go tomorrow if you don't perform. I think that's what people forget. When you get into a CEO job, you are in a precarious position because you have to perform all the time, and it's very easy to fall off that perch. I concluded that the best way to impress everybody was to do a good job, and the rest of it will speak for itself. So I focused maniacally on doing a good job in Pepsi. I figured if I did that, everything else will come with it. And even if people don't compliment me, that's okay, because I'm still in the job. Keeping the job is a big compliment.

Nora Ali: I would guess to say, you don't necessarily thrive on words of affirmation then. That might not be your love language.

Indra Nooyi: My family is not the "give me affirmation" type. Not at all. I'm sure you have the same problem, Nora. Problem or reality. I mean, they don't believe in affirmation.

Nora Ali: Yeah, using emotional language generally is not something that our cultures are very used to.

Indra Nooyi: But they will tell you when they don't like it. 

Nora Ali: Exactly. Relatedly, we are seeing more and more children of immigrants, especially in the Asian American community, leaning into their cultures via startups, especially in the consumer goods space. These founders are reconnecting with their roots and bringing aspects of their family's culture here to America. There's ancient India-inspired beauty products; there's Asian flavor-inspired seltzers. It's really, really booming. I'm friends with a lot of these folks. Do you have any hypotheses as to why these kinds of companies are booming now, where we grew up torn between cultures, maybe rejecting some of our family's cultures, but now we truly are embracing it and trying to bring a little bit of that taste here into the US?

Indra Nooyi: I think for the first time we are all seeing companies or people here all of a sudden identifying phytochemicals that existed in Ayurveda forever, or making yoga more of a mainstream spiritual tool. People are now beginning to say, "Wait a minute, we invented it, so why don't we benefit from it? Why don't we plus up everything we invented and bring that to market and maybe we can make money too?" If I look at Basmati rice, when people here start to trademark Basmati rice, all of a sudden you find people from the subcontinent saying, "Whoa, just a second. Basmati rice can't be trademarked, we own Basmati rice." 

I think a lot of stuff that came from Asian cultures are being discovered. Traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, homeopathy, all of those are being discovered as pretty good alternative cures for some lifestyle issues. Not for everything, but for many lifestyle issues. So people are going back to nature to identify these phytochemicals, going back to nature to identify bioactive peptides, to see how they can be selectively augmented in foods that we sell. Asian pride is slowly coming back because of centuries of oral traditions passed down and centuries of these sorts of cures that existed in those cultures.

Nora Ali: I think part of what's contributing to this boom is the fact that investors, venture capitalists, are realizing, hey, maybe there is a market for this here in the US, even if the product is not for me or even if I can't relate to the product. And you've taken on jobs where maybe the product and/or the function were not familiar to you. You've spoken about how when you were first looking at joining PepsiCo, you don't eat meat, so how could you possibly relate to the consumer for a company that at the time owned KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, et cetera? But to succeed in today's workplace where we do see a lot of career pivots and jumps, how important is it to market yourself as a specialist, someone who really does understand a consumer and a particular job, versus marketing yourself as someone who is a generalist who can learn on the job and learn on the fly? How do you make that distinction as a young person trying to make some of those career jumps?

Indra Nooyi: It's interesting because I faced this exact thing in PepsiCo. When they were hiring me, I said, "Look, I don't eat meat. I don't drink alcohol. You sure you want somebody like me?" And I got a great answer from them. They said, "We don't ask you to be a taster. We're not asking you to develop pizzas or fried chicken. We're not asking you to do any of that stuff. All that we want you to help us think through is the strategic future of this company." Which means that what they were relying on me for was my ability to develop strategic frameworks and think about the value drivers. What drives value in the business? How do we tweak what aspects of the business to improve the value? So they were looking at me as somebody who's seen multiple industries, who knows how to identify value drivers, and bring that thinking to PepsiCo on a global basis.

You have to think about not just saying I know everything at 25,000 feet, but it's like, I know things at 25,000 feet but I know how to slowly bring it down to 5,000 feet and then work with you to land it. Many people talk in such broad generalities. Nobody knows what to do with it. But it's how you frame the issue by zooming out and then slowly start to zoom in to make it very practical for people. And that's what we all have to learn to do as a skill because that's what's so badly needed, this ability to zoom in and zoom out.

Nora Ali: You certainly branded yourself as someone who could take a lot of complex information and make it simple and understandable for people. You've talked broadly about this importance of building your brand outside of your company as you climb up in leadership positions. People should know you in your industry. But now there's countless more platforms to brand yourself on—social media, for example. What does building your brand mean in practice? And is it important at the entry level position and for junior employees as much as it is for those leaders?

Indra Nooyi: I'd say at the first two or three levels of the company, when I talk about being valuable in the outside is outside your work group. People in other parts of the company should be saying, "You know, Nora, she really did a fantastic job on this brand. I wish she'd work on my brand." So in the early stages it's beyond your work group because you are sort of tucked away into a work group. How do people outside your work group notice you? 

As you move up, Nora, you've got to start casting your presence in other parts of the industry, so showing up in industry forums, speaking on major topics. But what that implies is that you're not just thinking about the issues facing your company and industry in isolation, but while you're doing your job, you're also thinking about what's changing in the industry, what's changing in the economy. What kind of thinking can you bring to the party?

Now, that depends if you're a strategic thinker or not. If you're a strategic thinker, these shapes will start appearing for you. And to become a strategic thinker, you have to read. You have to read about different industries. How did they get restructured? How did they transform? How did they address disruptive forces? So you've got to read, observe, watch. You've got to do all that. And from that, you have to derive your own perspective about your industry. So when you go to an industry association meeting and you say two insightful things, all of a sudden people are inviting you back and saying, "I've got to get Nora back because whatever she said, everybody's quoting her the next week or two." 

And that's what used to happen to me. I didn't even know I said something insightful, and people call me back and say, "Indra, you said these two things. Everybody's talking about it." I said, oh, I didn't realize that that was insightful because that's what I used to do naturally all the time. So you've got to decide where you've got competence to add value, and it takes work. It doesn't just naturally come. You've got to work at it. Read. You look at diagonal, tangential issues and bring them back and connect them with what you're doing.

Nora Ali: There are countless types of career opportunities now because of the so-called creator economy. And you have spoken about the fact that the MBA system or business schools do need to adjust to modern times compared to when you went to business school. I didn't get business education in high school. It wasn't mandatory in college. Do you think that that should become a requirement now, is business education, financial independence education at an earlier age now?

Indra Nooyi: I think pieces of it. Business education is a complex set of subjects that are taught in business schools. The great thing about business schools and with the value of doing an MBA program, whether it's a one-year or a two-year program, is you build, again, a network of good people that stands you in good stead forever. So you can call people and say, "Hey, you went to Yale School of Management. I went to Yale School of Management too. Can you help me with this?" So you have this network across the corporate world that you can easily call upon. That's the value of business schools. That's why people want to go to business school, for the networking effect, the soft skills, being able to debate and discuss issues in a group, which simulates what you would do in companies. 

I think many modules of financial management: budgeting, how do you run a household, all that stuff, can be taught earlier in life. It may not be in high school, maybe a little later, so that people really can start these things earlier. There's no timeframe to manage your budget or your finances. You can start as early as you can. We can teach that. Then as you evolve, we can give you higher and higher levels of knowledge. But, again, life is not all about the MBA program or business. There's so many other things you can be doing, too. You can be a chemist, you can be a physicist, you can be a software programmer and still learn finance. So there are many modules out there that you can learn anytime. But going to a two-year business program or a one-year business program is a whole different ballgame. It's an expensive investment on a very critical set of skills.

Nora Ali: Is it worth the investment?

Indra Nooyi: I think so. I think even today, in spite of the fact that the costs have gone up so much, it is worth the investment because students come out very different than when they went in. They now understand how the system works, how the pieces all fit together. They simulate so many conditions that happen in companies in business school. They now know how to react to situations early on in their life in corporate America, as opposed to getting beaten up a few times before they learn these things on the job.

Nora Ali: I'm sure that network and that community is invaluable. You can't put a price on that. You clearly, as an executive at Pepsi, cared very deeply for your employees. It's always about the humanity with you. One of my favorite parts of your story is that you wrote letters to the parents of your senior executives and to the spouses of your direct reports. What did you learn from that exercise, and how important is it to get that personal as a leader?

Indra Nooyi: All that I can tell you is the reaction I got from parents, from the executives, it was just off the chart. The executives were so proud that their parents now had a letter from the chairman of the company saying they were doing a great job, which their parents had never gotten. The parents were walking on cloud nine, saying, the chairman of the company that my son or daughter works for has written me this letter about how great my child is. And they shared that letter again and again and again with friends and family. And when the child went home to visit the parents, there was always this moment of pride, saying, "I got this letter, I framed it, I hung it up on the living room walls or in the bedroom." So people took pride in it. And the end of the day, you want families to feel good working for PepsiCo; you want your executives feeling like you care about them as husbands, wives, sons, and daughters.

And that's really all I did. That's all I did. It unleashed a connection to the company, unleashed passion about the company, and unleashed stronger bonds. It created stronger bonds between the executive and the company. I still keep in touch with a lot of the executives. They'll always open or end by saying, "Hey, my mom's asking about you," or "My dad wants to know what you're up to." Even today, any ex-PepsiCo executive, the 300 to 400 people that got letters, they always start with something that their parents asked about me. That connection will never be lost.

Nora Ali: I love that so much. You've had this wonderful benefit of finding mentors and leaders throughout your career that treated you like a human. And that often involves criticism and feedback, and you got feedback that you shouldn't throw hand grenades, but instead use softer language when delivering feedback. And you said that this softer language had worked out very well for you. But women in the workplace, we get conflicting advice all the time. Speak up and be assertive, but don't be too assertive, otherwise you'll be called bossy. But also don't use too many exclamation marks and smiley faces in your emails, because no one will take you seriously. I just wonder, in the modern workplace, how much do you think women need to adjust our behavior to suit the expectations of others? Generally, what is your best advice on being an effective communicator at work while also staying true to yourself?

Indra Nooyi: Well, one of the big lessons I've learned is to watch the communication style of people two levels above me. Not one level, two levels above me. Because that told me how people got to where they are. I watch how they convey messages, how they react to bad news, how they calm the troops down. I watch them in my own company, I watch them in other companies I interact with. I watch them on any industry meeting I go to. Because I think at the end of the day that people two levels above you means it's not just one level, it's progressing beyond that. What does it take to really move up? And when you see certain styles that people adopt, make a note of it. Write in your little diary and say "give eye contact" or "make sure you let people finish." "When they give you bad news, don't immediately dismiss them." 

So you'll see all these cues that show up in people two levels above you are receiving news and processing it and handling it. Also write down what you see was a bad boss. Because sometimes you'll see examples where people two levels above you are dealing with things badly, and then when he or she leaves the room, everybody goes, "That behavior was unacceptable. I never want to work with this guy again." Put down your thoughts, put down your notes. Because then you go back and you reflect on it and say, am I doing some of the same things? What do I need to do differently? So it's not a whole-scale change, Nora, it's adapting at the margin, changing at the margin so that over time you evolve your own style, but do it with an awareness of what's going on in the world around you.

Nora Ali: It's like what your parents told you when you first left India. Be yourself, but try to blend in too.

Indra Nooyi: That's exactly right. Yep.

Nora Ali: I think that's beautiful advice. We're going to take a very quick break. More when we return. 

As women, we're also taught in the workplace to fight for our value, to negotiate, don't take on additional tasks without getting fairly compensated. But there were times in your career where you kept getting more responsibility added to your plate, but you hadn't even thought of asking for more money until, say, the HR team came to you to talk about your salary many months later. You were just grateful at the time for these opportunities. Would you have done anything differently and asked for fair compensation early on?

Indra Nooyi: The best way is when I tell my daughters: Constantly benchmark yourself and make sure that for added responsibility you get added compensation, because that's what the men get. So you'd better get it too. I don't want any pay disparities. I think that is wrong. I think every talent should get paid for the work they do equally. You know, my time was different in the early days, and I just didn't even know how to ask for it. But later on, my bosses took care of it. But I have to tell you, I will not tolerate pay disparities. I think it's wrong. And I think HR should look at it as a blight on them. And believe me, I am constantly advising my daughters to never put up with that kind of stuff.

Nora Ali: What's the best way to speak up if you see that as a young worker in the workplace?

Indra Nooyi: I think you should go to your HR department. And if HR then says, "Oh, you're just overreacting," that's when you start to really say, okay, show us the data. An HR department should be taught to be more transparent about these issues. And to be honest, if HR is not about human resources, and human includes men and women, I think that's where I know, unfortunately, it's hu-man and not hu-woman.

Nora Ali: I think you should copyright that and trademark that and change the vocabulary. Hu-woman. I like that. Indra, beyond pay disparity, you've seen and experienced gender bias at work. You wrote about this "and/but "phenomenon in your book, where in performance reviews, women would say, "Oh, you're meeting your objectives, but here's an issue with your personality," et cetera. Men got the "and" treatment where, "Great job, and you're crushing it on this other thing." What were some of the most surprising things you saw as to how women versus men were treated in the workplace during your career? And do you think that is changing and improving now? 

Indra Nooyi: I can tell you that the changes that were happening even in the last five, six years of my time in PepsiCo, what I was seeing in corporate America, changes were happening in leaps and bounds. So that's the good news. But we have to keep raising the awareness, whether it's talking over women or diverse people when they're talking, rolling your eyes when somebody is talking, somebody who's diverse is talking. All these are bad behaviors. I think that I started to notice in the later parts of my corporate life that things were changing. I think that we have to keep that pressure up. We shouldn't just say, okay, it's changed enough; now let's go back to our old days. I think we have to make sure we put CEOs in the job, those that are very gender neutral, and say, I want the best talent. I want to treat everybody the same. I want to pay everybody the same for the job done. I'm going to look at each person as a great talent, not men or women. 

So if you approach a talent and say, oh, this is a female, therefore I can afford to pay her less, you end up with all this bad behavior. But if you say, this job is chief communications officer. What is this chief communications officer worth? Not what is a man in the job worth versus a woman in the job worth. So CEOs ought to have this incredible integrity about looking at each job on its own merit. Believe me, if they did that, you wouldn't have pay disparities; you wouldn't have unconscious bias. You would have more women in organizations, because when you're evaluating talent for talent, more women would bubble up. We are getting there slowly. A lot of enlightenment is coming into positions of power.

Nora Ali: Indra, before we conclude, just a series of some quick questions for you. What are you most optimistic about for the future generation of workers?

Indra Nooyi: I see the creativity coming out of these young people, these 20-somethings, early 30s. My god, they want to change everything about the world for the better. I don't understand a lot of what they're saying, but I think that our future looks very bright because of the incredible creativity of these young people.

Nora Ali: It's fair to say that you've worked harder than most people around you in your career: long hours on weekends, you had a supportive family, you found leaders and mentors who believed in you. You've said modestly that your success was like winning the lottery in some ways. What is the number one thing to which you attribute your success?

Indra Nooyi: It has to be two things. One is my upbringing and my husband, because I had a very, very solid upbringing, and I was given all the foundational skills needed in my early childhood. And then later on in life when I got married, my husband was my rock. But then if you go professionally, it's my mentors. My god, the mentors I've had who came out of the woodwork to be my mentors. I didn't ask them, they just appointed themselves my mentors, and they contributed massively to my success. Massively.

Nora Ali: Raj is definitely the hero of your book. He's now everyone's husband, everyone's dad. We've adopted him as ours.

Indra Nooyi: I was thinking last night, had he been there and if he was being interviewed, what he would say.

Nora Ali: Does he do interviews?

Indra Nooyi: He has never given one so far. Never.

Nora Ali: Maybe we can change that. Lastly, what is something most people don't know about you or you wish more people knew about you?

Indra Nooyi: I think people know that I love people. I love to mentor, develop people, but I can't mentor everybody. So when I get involved in mentoring, I get involved very deeply. I'm always available for them and I really help them get to places they never thought they could get to. But I can only do that for very few people. I have a good handful of people I mentor, and all of those people have gone on to great things.

Nora Ali: All right, wonderful. Well, Indra, we will leave it there. This has been an incredible conversation. I'm so happy; I feel like it was a little bit of therapy for me as well. So thank you so much.

Indra Nooyi: Make sure you give your mom my love.

Nora Ali: I will. Thank you so much. Thank you. 

This is Business Casual, and I'm Nora Ali. You can follow me on Twitter @NoraKAli, and I would love to hear from you. You can also reach the BC team by emailing businesscasual@morningbrew.com, or give us a call. That number is 862-295-1135. If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe to Business Casual on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. And if you like the show, please leave us a rating and a review. Business Casual is produced by Katherine Milsop, Olivia Meade, Bella Hutchins, and Raymond Luu. Additional production sound design and mixing by Daniel Markus, Rosemary Minkler, and Nick Torres. Kate Brandt is our fact checker, and AB Silver is our senior booking producer. Music in this episode from Daniel Markus and the Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. Thanks for listening to Business Casual. I'm Nora Ali. Keep it business, and keep it casual.