“Dear Mom, I love you. Please come home. Please please please please please come home.”
This was an old letter from her younger daughter that Indra Nooyi found while going through her papers. More recently, her daughter objected to Nooyi’s getting rid of an old desk during an office renovation, because she had so many memories of sleeping in a little area underneath it. This was back when Nooyi had just joined PepsiCo and had been working round the clock, with an 18-month old child. Recently at the Women of the World Summit in New York, in conversation with Norah O’ Donnell and Anne Marie Slaughter, she recalled these bittersweet moments.
Anne Marie Slaughter, too, for her part, recalled the time when her then young son had drawn a laptop in lieu of a person to represent her in a family drawing. These are heartaches that women executives with top positions can really, strongly, relate to. Together they discussed what they called the next revolution in which women would be able to have strong careers, without having to suffer aching hearts for being absent many times in their personal lives as daughters, wives, mothers and so on.
While companies offer maternity leaves to their female (although a paid one is still not guaranteed in the US), Nooyi rightly questions, what happens next? After the leave ends, they still have an infant who needs care. What, therefore, is the solution that societies, families, companies and governments can build together to allow women (and men) to have both wonderful careers and strong families? What can be done with day-care systems so that they are supported with certified, well-paid care-givers, who — as Slaughter points out — are entrusted with the most delicate yet critical task of shaping a young child’s mind.
Together, Indra Nooyi and Anne-Marie Slaughter ask, what needs to change about cultural attitudes, workplaces and government policies, so that people have to worry a little less about “what’s gonna happen to my kids?”. Nooyi reflects on her own Indian heritage which entailed her parents and parents-in-law supervising the daycare help in raising her own children. Slaughter also pointed out that traditional, white, anglo-saxon protestant America could learn from Indian-Americans, Mexican-Americans and African-Americans about roping in the whole family to support each other.
This is something to take note of because, Indians, in general, are very well placed in terms of a supportive extended family structure that provides care to the young and the elderly. Therefore, working Indian women already have some of the support resources that their western counterparts need to reimagine. But we still lag far behind in cultural attitudes about men’s and women’s work and perhaps, in the availability of quality day-care provisions. It shows that this ‘Next Revolution’ really is a solution that the world, and especially women of the world, have to develop together by taking the best from the east and the west.
The full discussion of Anne Marie Slaughter and Indra Nooyi with Norah O’Donnell: