An Engrossing Tale of An Extraordinary Woman
My Life In Full, is an autobiography of Indra Nooyi who became CEO of PepsiCo and remained at the helm of affairs for 14 years in which she doubled sales of her company to $64 billion and ensured her brand becomes synonymous with healthy eating.
Indra Nooyi notched up many ‘firsts’ in a male dominated society and work-place that frowned upon gutsy women who believed they were equal to men. It all started with forming a Rock band in a Missionary Girls school and co-opting boys in the band. Then came the initiative of forming an all-women cricket team in college and playing as an opening batsman in it. A progressive ‘Thatha’ (grandfather), an encouraging father and a mother who aspired to educate the girls, set the stage for the challenging climb up the male dominated ladder to become the CEO of PepsiCo and the first woman of colour to head a Fortune 500 company. Today, the Heads of State of both the USA and India are proud to claim her as their own.
Indra Nooyi’s autobiography winds its way through her growing years in Chennai, where Lakshmi Nilayam, her paternal grandfather’s house, becomes her first school of life and inculcates in her the qualities and values that made her a great leader, a compassionate human being and one who believes that the core support for a working woman and man, comes from the family. It was probably this value system that inspired her to write to the spouses of all direct reports and thank them for sharing their husband or wife with PepsiCo. A little reminiscent of the character Elizabeth McCord of Madame Secretary fame.
What sets this autobiography apart is its "unvarnished take" on the bias against women in a workplace. The reader is shocked to read that Indra Nooyi was not allowed entrance into a well-known Golf Club in the US, simply because she was a woman. Nooyi says “golf and business stories may seem cliché, but connections forged over 18 holes are not incidental and some of the most coveted places to play in the US still bar women”. With wry humour she says that women have to demonstrate their ‘gravitas’ in a world where "authority and brilliance to many people still looks like an older gentleman". She openly admits that this bias had made her life a juggling act with "pain, guilt, and trade offs". She propounds what she calls the ‘moonshot’ vision on how to bring more women into the workforce and tap their full potential. She talks about paid maternity, paternity leave, childcare and also paid leave to care for a loved one. She stresses the need for job flexibility and remote work for everyone. This she feels will give "families the chance to take care of home life obligations without being loaded with emotional consequences" and would also "unleash the economy’s full potential"
An inspiring and riveting tale of an extraordinary woman. A must read for working women who can learn to handle gender bias from a veteran. A must read for men so they can understand the trials and tribulations women go through in the workplace. And as Matt Damon, actor, screenwriter succinctly puts it "a great road map for anyone who aspires to merge social change with leading a large organization."