PepsiCo CEO on being called ‘sweetie’ in the workplace: ‘That has to change’

By Carolyn Heneghan

Dive Brief:

  • PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, who has run one of the world’s leading food and beverage companies for nearly a decade, is called “sweetie” and “honey” in the workplace, Nooyi said at Tina Brown’s Women in the World Summit last week.
  • Nooyi illuminated the challenges she’s experienced as a female CEO, including unequal treatment compared to her male peers. “We’ve got to be treated as executives or people rather than ‘honey’ or ‘sweetie’ or ‘babe,'” she said. “That has to change.”
  • Nooyi believes that more needs to be done to restructure the workforce as a place where women do not have to choose between career and personal lives, which can leave them at a disadvantage. PepsiCo is building a daycare center on campus to support that belief.

Dive Insight:
In the face of this discrimination, Nooyi has led PepsiCo to new heights. She has nearly doubled the company’s annual revenues during her tenure. The stock price has also increased by 56% in that time, outperforming the S&P 500. While facing a slowdown in the soda segment, Nooyi has encouraged innovation across all sectors of the company. PepsiCo recently reported a 7% decline in net revenue but a 31% jump in net income in its latest quarter.

Another area Nooyi has succeeded in is compensation, having topped the list of food and beverage CEO compensation compiled by Food Dive last month. Nooyi earned $26.5 million in total compensation for 2015, a 17.6% increase from 2014. Still, even her salary has paled in comparison to several other top-paying male CEOs across industries, according to a Fast Company report on 2014 compensation.

Women CEOs in the food and beverage industry are still in the minority, but women investors are also playing a larger role in food and beverage industry disruption which should bode growing confidence. Female co-founders Lauren Jupiter and Jordan Gaspar launched AccelFoods, a food and beverage-focused startup accelerator. Edible Ventures, a food and beverage angel investment firm launched last fall, also names Sherri Wolf, a former beverage company CFO and venture capitalist, and Julia Paino, cofounder of food company Swoffle and seed fund investor, among its members.

A 2015 survey from Green Hasson Janks found that more than 42% of respondents said consumer trust and public image were the top benefit of having female company leaders. This is a crucial benefit as the food and beverage industry strives to improve its image, particularly in terms of ingredients and transparency. Other top-rated benefits named in the survey were industry relationships, industry understanding, supplier relationships, relatability as a spokesperson, and media relationships.