Indra Nooyi – #WomenWhoLead: Powerful Women Changing the World

indra nooyi

This is part of the #WomenWhoLead campaign! During Women’s History Month LiveYourDream.org is featuring powerful women who are making a difference in their fields, inspiring the next generation, and changing the world for the better. These fierce feminist icons advocate for gender equality, challenge sexism, fight the patriarchy, and empower women everywhere to live their dreams.

Who is Indra Nooyi?

As former president, chairwoman and CEO of Pepsico, a 160-billion dollar snack-food and beverage corporation, Nooyi represented one of the less-than-5% of women in the world who lead major public corporations, and one of the world’s highest-ranking Indian women. Today, she serves as a member of the board of directors at Amazon.

When she became CEO, she was just one of ten women in the world leading a Fortune 500 company.

Nooyi grew up in Chennai, India, to a conservative, middle-class family. When she was in her 20s, she moved to the US to attend business school at Yale University. She joined Pepsico in 1994 as the head of corporate strategy, eventually becoming the conglomerate’s first female chief executive, assuming the role of chief financial officer, then president, and then CEO, a position she embraced from 2006-2018.

What does she do?

As the head of Pepsico, she oversaw more than 260,000 employees around the world. During her 12-year tenure, she transformed the culture of Pepsico to keep up with our changing world and its focus on nutrition and healthful eating, boosting its revenue 80 percent. She headed the company’s acquisitions of Tropicana and then Quaker Oats, a $14 billion deal considered to be one of the largest in history.

Women are daughters, mothers, wives, and employees, and they are often called upon to make tremendous sacrifices, because they cannot be everything, all the time.

When she became CEO, she was just one of ten women in the world leading a Fortune 500 company. As a board member at Amazon, she raises the percentage of women represented to 45%, which is remarkably high for such a large corporation.

“Leave the crown in the garage.”

When Nooyi was promoted to president of Pepsico in 2001, she couldn’t wait to share the good news with her mother. Her mother had other priorities, however. Brushing her announcement aside, she told Nooyi to get milk for the household, reminding Nooyi that “when you step into this house, you’re a wife and mother first.” She then told Nooyi, “Nobody can take that place. So leave that crown in the garage.”

Nooyi has referred to that exchange to show how women occupy several significant roles in society, and that because of this, they face particular challenges on the path to success. Women are daughters, mothers, wives, and employees, and they are often called upon to make tremendous sacrifices, because they cannot be everything, all the time. Women’s success requires the concerted effort of not only her family, but also her workplace, her community, and society as a whole.

Nooyi herself worked to ensure that Pepsico employees would have access to quality childcare, with the aim of “empowering people to build not just a career, but a life,” and her business plan has served as a global model of success. Nooyi is known as a savvy corporate executive whose unflinchingly honest views of women in business have served as an inspiration around the world.


Lynn Ink is a university-level educator, writer, editor, women’s rights advocate and mom to three teens and a Border Collie. She loves Netflix binge-watching, blueberry pancakes and researching everything from historical events to remote places. She squirrels away most of her writing for no one to read, but is happy to share her work with LiveYourDream.org to help women and girls achieve their fullest potential. Currently, she’s working on a novel about a caregiver who chucks it all for an epic road trip and an In-N-Out burger. Maybe she’ll share it one day.

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