An international leader in corporate business, Indra Nooyi is a visionary known for her keen intellect, strategic thinking, can-do attitude, and consistently demonstrating a commitment to sustainability and corporate responsibility to society as a whole. She began her career with PepsiCo in 1994 as Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning and was promoted to Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Development in 1996. In 2006 Indra was named President and CEO of PepsiCo, and assumed the role of Chairman in 2007.
Indra was born in 1955 in Madras (now Chennai), India, to a conservative family in a society where males were favored and it was considered inappropriate for young girls to exert themselves. Her mother and father, a stay-at-home mom and an official or the State Bank respectively, put great importance on education and excelling in school. They also made sure to instill the belief in Indra and her two siblings that they could become anything they wanted to be regardless of gender, encouraging all three of their children to dream big.
Indra took that message to heart (as did her older sister Chandrika Krishnamurth, a Grammy nominated world musician and a financial advisor/trustee of New York University; and her younger brother Nandu Narayanan, founder and Chief Investment Officer of Trident Investment Management LLC in New York City). She received a degree in chemistry, physics, and math from Madras Christian College in 1976, where she considered herself a bit of a rule breaker by joining an all-girls cricket team and becoming a member of an all-girls rock band.
She continued on with her education, receiving her M.B.A. in 1978 from the Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta. She took her first job at Tootal, a British textile company in India. She then went on to work for Johnson & Johnson as brand manager overseeing the company’s Stayfree account. Indra found this to be a challenging position, as advertising women’s feminine products was not allowed in India. After leaving Johnson & Johnson she worked as a product manager for textile firm Mettur Beardsell Ltd.
Indra began to feel as though she needed more preparation for the business world and so she applied and was accepted to the Yale School of Management in 1978. She was surprised that her parents agreed to let her go abroad. After graduating from Yale in 1980 with a master’s degree in public and private management she went on to direct international corporate strategies for the Boston Consulting Group. In 1986 she began working for Motorola as a business development executive and then was promoted to the Director of Corporate Strategy and Planning and Vice President. In 1990 she began working as Senior Vice President of Strategy and Strategic Marketing for Asea Brown Boveri, an automation and power technology corporation.
Indra began her career with PepsiCo in 1994 as Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning and was promoted in 1996 to Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Development. She was named President and CEO of PepsiCo in 2006 becoming the fifth CEO in PepsiCo’s 44-year history. Since her start as CEO PepsiCo’s annual net profit has risen from $2.7 billion to $6.5 billion, and under Indra’s strategic leadership PepsiCo launched Performance with Purpose in 2009. Based on the pillars of Human, Environmental and Talent Sustainability the program is an effort to deliver sustained financial performance by providing a wide range of foods and beverages, finding innovative ways to minimize impact on the environment and providing a safe and inclusive workplace for employees globally as well as respecting, supporting and investing in the local communities in which PepsiCo operates. Nooyi also serves as chair of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a U.S effort that brings together retailers, restaurants and food and beverage manufacturers to help reduce obesity, especially in children. Inspired by their Performance with Purpose initiative, PepsiCo launched Food for Good, a social enterprise within PepsiCo whose mission is to make healthy food physically and financially accessible for low-income families through sustainable, business-driven solutions.
In addition to her work at PepsiCo Indra serves on numerous boards including the PepsiCo board of Directors, U.S.-China Business Council, U.S.-India Council and The Consumer Goods Forum. She is a Successor Fellow of the Yale Corporation and was appointed by The Obama Administration to the U.S.-India CEO Forum. She has also received 14 honorary degrees and numerous awards including the 2007 Padma Bhushan Award from the President of India. She was ranked as the 3rd most powerful woman in business by Fortune in 2014 and as the 2nd most powerful women by Fortune in 2015. She has been ranked 13 on the Forbes list of the World’s 100 most powerful women. She currently resides in Greenwich, Connecticut with her husband of 35 years Raj K. Nooyi and has two daughters.
During This Time
1966 - Today: Struggle for Justice
Feminism in the late 1960s was aided by President Kennedy, who formed the President’s Commission on the Status of Women in 1961, and his successor, President Johnson, who backed passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion. Difficulties in implementing the law through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) led a group of women in 1966 to create the National Organization for Women (NOW), demanding “action to bring American women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now.”
A younger group called for a more radical approach to social change than simply considering what was possible to achieve politically. “Women’s liberation” demanded freedom without limitation. Some took part in consciousness-raising groups, others demonstrated against the Miss America pageant, and many discussed their expectations of mutual enjoyment of sex. They established rape crisis centers, domestic shelters, and women’s studies programs. Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act also increased pressure on universities to hire more women faculty and expand the number of female college athletes. Activist protest among gays and lesbians, such as the Stonewall Riot, symbolized this group’s potential to resist oppression.
Under pressure, many states repealed legislation prohibiting abortion. In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized its availability to women in Roe v. Wade. Also in 1973, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the ERA, and states began its ratification.
Yet, dissension arose in the ranks of the movement, as it had earlier after passage of the 19th amendment. Feminists disagreed as to whether pornography should be banned or protected as a form of free speech, and whether lesbian identities should be kept secret or disclosed. Black women were more concerned with poverty and welfare in their communities than with personal career advancement; for them, sterilization abuse was more important than abortion, and they were deeply insulted by attacks on the African American family as matriarchal and dysfunctional.
A backlash was growing in the 1970s, along with a New Right in politics. The ERA was defeated and opposition to abortion increased. Conflicts between pro-life and pro-choice candidates have impacted every presidential campaign since then.
Still, gains have been made in many areas. From 1960 to 2000, increasing numbers of women sought entry to higher education, and bachelor’s degrees awarded to them increased from forty to sixty percent. Definitions of marriage have changed, as when courts gave full rights and responsibilities and the name of marriage to same-sex civil unions in Connecticut in 2008. The Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991 highlighted concern about sexual harassment on the job, and the number of sexual harassment cases filed with the EEOC have increased, as have judgments in favor of the women. Finally, in 2009, women crossed the fifty percent threshold and became the majority of the American workforce. Once largely confined to repetitive manual jobs, now they are running organizations that once treated them as second-class citizens.
The Women’s Movement has changed women’s lives, influenced the economy, and made debate about their roles, family life, and sexual conventions central to national politics and American history.
Special thanks to Barbara E. Lacey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History, St. Joseph's College (Hartford, CT) for preparing these historical summaries.