« Leadership Through Defiance | Main | HR Leadership »

Thursday, July 03, 2014


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Anna, this is a really fantastic take on the subject! As someone who's just coming into senior management myself, I feel like I don't have any of the answers yet - though when I look at the recent graduates who work for me, I realize that I've actually come a lot farther than I think and learned quite a bit. Your advice about not feeling like everything has to be perfect at all times is spot-on, though I think I probably need to work on not succumbing to the perfectionist pull a bit more myself.

Also, I COMPLETELY agree about her mother's comments when she first got the job being inappropriate. Unfortunately, I've heard a lot of similar comments made to my friends and colleagues in similar (though obviously less senior) circumstances.

Duncan Ferguson

Great blog post, Anna. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this topic and they were spot on. Ms. Nooyi had the opportunity to inspire other women and educate the rest of us on how we need to change. Unfortunately, she failed woefully. My guess is that she doesn't inspire as a leader at Pepsi either.


Thanks for your post Anna. It seems to me there is a fundamental math problem here: if you work 100+ hours a week, how could you ever have enough time for your children and spouse? Ms. Nooyi seemed to give an honest and specific picture of how that has worked in her life. She is obviously a smart and capable person who has done better in her career than most can dream of, she has more support around her than many people have (husband, mother, secretary, hired help), and she has been resourceful in balancing the needs of her children (training her secretary to field calls from children). She seems to have subscribed to all of your points above, but that still does not add up to a "wonderful family life."
-Her husband helps. But he also gets home from work at 8pm (as opposed to many male executives who have stay-at-home spouses) so the kids see very little of their parents.
-Her kids understand the program. They call their mom's secretary instead of their mom. Their mom can't come to social events that stay-at-home moms can come to.
-She has realistic expectation. She can not come to weekday social events and answer calls from her kids and run PepsiCo.
-She has a lot of help (more help, by the way, than women who are ambitious but not yet head of PepsiCo can afford): her husband, her mom, her secretary, several hired help.

Your post says Ms. Nooyi should be more positive, but it does not give any specifics about how one can put in that many hours on the job and still have a "wonderful family life." I would be interested to hear specifically where you think Ms. Nooyi has gone wrong and where you think you or other women have done better at having that level of career but still having time for children and husband?

Anna Catalano

Hi Kristin! Thanks so much for weighing in. It's such an important conversation, and I want to make sure I'm not misunderstood.

You're right...Ms. Nooyi has given a very honest and candid narrative of her personal situation, and she doesn't think she's making it work. As I read her interview, I found myself having a hard time believing that she was expected to pick up the milk after a rather long (and monumental) day at work. I don't know enough about her/her husband/her mom to comment on how much support they give, and I certainly believe that every working mother (and spouse if married) has to figure out how to mesh all of the demands together. The primary source of my dismay is that she chose to draw a conclusion that for whatever reason she was having difficulties, that it's "impossible" for women to make it work...that you can't have a busy career life as well as a happy home. In her position, that's a huge statement...as she serves as a role model for so many women and women of color.

The points I suggest in my post are based on what I have found has worked for me, and what I've seen other women/families do. Although there is by no means a formula that suits all, there are many women and men who are investing a lot of time/energy/sacrifice to increase the chances of it being a success, and many have figured out how to make it work in their own way.

I'd hate to take a stab at where I think "Ms. Nooyi has gone wrong" because I'm unfamiliar with her/her husband, or her mother, who seem to be critical players in terms of how she feels she is doing. She and I also may have a very different definition of what "success" looks like. I can say that as the CEO, she is in a unique position to set a tone for work hours in her company. As a board director of four multi-national companies, I would be dismayed if any of my CEOs felt as though they couldn't take an important call from their children during one of our meetings (in fact, it's happened on at least two occasions I can recall!). She should certainly be able to attend a few school events if that's important to her children. And what a great signal that would send to her employees.

Our definition of "it all" is very personal, and based on our life priorities. We have to decide what will make us happy, make the choices to increase the likelihood of good outcomes, and surround ourselves with people who share those dreams and help us along the way. For me, coming from an Asian background (Chinese), there were cultural norms that had to be addressed regarding professional decisions, and later on, how our kids were raised. There are others (both men and women) who deal with family members whose health issues greatly impact how much time they choose to take away from home. And finally, the role of women in high-level jobs is still seen by some as "ancillary" to the home -- and those expectations, also play a role in how we feel about how we're doing. It's up to each of us to decide on what we define as "success", and what comprises "a wonderful family life".

Ms. Nooyi is an incredible role model for many of us, and has given many people hope that an outstandingly brilliant and hard-working woman can find corporate success at the highest level. A few generations ago, that idea was deemed "impossible" by many. I'm only asking that we provide the same amount of support that it "can be done" to those who are meshing busy personal lives as well.

Thanks again for your comments...you are obviously tremendously dedicated to this topic, and for that I'm greatly appreciative.


Anna - You are spot on with your comments on partners and support. That's the key, in my opinion, to having it all. It worked for me!


Anna -

…..."For those who are seeking both professional success and family happiness, the key lies in the people with whom you choose to take that journey. With the right group of partners and supporters, it CAN be done, ladies!"….

Your thoughts and comments are wonderful to hear. As a "Husband" a "Father" a "Businessman", the support I get from my wife is what makes my success, equally, the support I give to my wife to follow her career, passion or even her hobby, contributes to me being a "Husband" and a "Father".

I was fortunate enough to be able to spend 3 years sharing the care of my youngest child 3 days a week while my wife followed her career. This did not affect my career or business and I had the great fortune to bear witness to all the wonderful things that happen in a child's life during infancy. My personal experience is that there is no business success, no business deal, no amount of wealth, that can take away that shared moment of absolute genuine "laughter" a child gets from that secure loving environment of being happy and content.

I have a "shared" responsibility for the success of my "family" which includes supporting them all not just "financially" but in helping them achieve their goals.

Women CAN experience the great heights of personal and business success, the key to great business success is to surround yourself with great people who share your goals and support you. Oddly enough, that works in your personal life equally successfully.

Keep spreading the supportive message !

Anna Catalano

Dear "Pinky",

Your comments mean so much...thanks for taking the time. Your experience shows that with the right support, a husband & wife team can find so much happiness both professionally and at home. I have no doubt that your children have benefitted by having two very involved parents, and will join kids like mine in the future, touting the blessings of having some wonderful years with their father.

At the end of the day, it's the moments we spend with people that matter the most in our lives. I agree with you...there is no comparison between getting the "deal" done, and seeing the joy in a child's face.

Thanks for showing how it can be done!


Great post, Anna. I agree with you wholeheartedly!

The comments to this entry are closed.