Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, spoke with Prof. Dr. Nakiye Boyacigiller, Dean of the School of Management at Sabanci University, about creating a more inclusive and diverse business environment. With PepsiCo’s food and beverages present in 186 countries around the world, with $66 billion in revenue, CEO Nooyi explained how women make up the largest percentage of shoppers and are thus the gatekeepers to the company’s success. In response to the question of how to respect local cultures while staying true to PepsiCo’s values, she mentioned Saudi Arabia as a key example of how the company will follow the local rules and guidelines in order to create freedom of business within the boundaries and framework of the country in question. In terms of the best tools for women’s advancement in the business world, Indra explained that education and training are key. She also emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships so that governments, private enterprises and NGOs can work together to provide women with a platform for business opportunities and success. Moreover, she praised the U.S.’ meritocracy and cited herself a model example of women’s abilities to rise to the top, through mentoring but even more so through sponsorships. Not only was there a discussion about the challenges of women in the workplace, but we also gained insight into the challenges of balancing work and family-life. What was Indra’s main message to working mothers that may at times feel guilty? Though she takes pride in being a successful business woman and manages to juggle her various roles, she stated that “success comes and goes, but family and motherhood are forever.”
The second part of the program consisted of a panel discussion with high-profile individuals from diverse work backgrounds who came together to discuss issues facing women in the work place. The panelists included Ümran Beba (President-Asia Pacific Region, Pepsi Co.), Şafak Pevy (Turkish Parliamentarian), Bülent Eczacıbaşı (Chairman, Eczacibasi Holding), Serra Yilmaz (Turkish actress), and Debra Crew (President, South East Europe Region, PepsiCo.).
Ümran Beba discussed her motivation to succeed as a businesswoman and the support system crucial to helping her achieve an eighteen year career at PepsiCo. Her key role models include her very supportive parents, her successful older sister, Turkey’s beloved Atatürk, and PepsiCo’s inspirational CEO – Indra Nooyi.
As a representative of the Parliament, Şafak Pavey emphasized the need to combat the problem of domestic violence towards women, as well as raising the percentage of women in the work-place and business world. In order to acheive these goals, women’s education must be a priority for the government, which will ultimately aid in the transformation of both street culture and Parliament culture that undermines women and other vulnerable populations. In Ms. Pavey’s words, we must not let the facts be replaced by legends, and we should stay clear of regional values and instead adopt universal values towards gender equality.
Bülent Eczacıbaşı, the sole male panelist, focused his discussion on the very large gap between men and women employment, stating that sustainable development activites require an increase in participation, training and employment of women in order to reach an equal opportunity level on par with that of the European Union’s.
Representing women in the Arts, actress Serra Yılmaz (who also works part-time as a translator) spoke passionately about gender inequalities in Turkey, noting that the present government does not offer enough support to artists. She emphasized the problem of finding sponsors for women in the theatre, and the need to change this culture of underrepresentation.
Adressing the audience in English, the President of PepsiCo in the Western European region Debra Crew explained how as a businesswoman one must define oneself by the skills and merits we have acquired, while being informed by our gender and background. Citing the fact that women board directors make up less that 9% relative to men, Ms. Crew argued for the need to create a positive agenda and discourse in the media, as well as advocating for more women in high positions. She proudly stated that it is one of PepsiCo’s duties to provide these equal opportunities for women.
Eugene Willemsen, President of PepsiCo in South East Europe, concluded the conference by restating the important fact that diversity and inclusiveness drive success in the marketplace.