Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Indra K. Nooyi, PepsiCo CEO, Can't "Have It All."

Why PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi can't "have it all."    You know, "have it all" in the sense of women having both high-level careers and families.

Well, that's what the term usually means.  It's not applied to men, because the traditional gendered division of labor means that men in traditional marriages can have both a high-level career and a family.  Nobody asks the male CEOs if they can "have it all,"  and mostly the cultural standards of fathering are low enough that someone working eighty-hour weeks qualifies.

But of course nobody, whether male or female, can "have it all."  And Nooyi's comments are not really about having both a family and a career but about the idea that the mother (and only she) should do all the care-giving, cooking, meal planning, cleaning, scheduling, transporting  and the emotional upkeep of other family members.  What Nooyi is really saying is that she can't "do it all."

In particular, she cannot be both the CEO of PepsiCo and a traditional Indian (I assume) daughter and wife.  That she judges herself from that angle and that others judge her from that angle, too, is pretty clear from the piece, and I get the impression that her husband is not expected to share in those household duties much.

The point:  We should stop viewing family-work balance as a women's issue only, because viewing it that way maintains the implicit assumption that mothers somehow are the only ones responsible for everything to do with the hands-on care of families

Having said that, my guess is that most every single high-powered CEO out there spends relatively little time with his or her family, because that's what the cultural expectations are.  The enormous salaries are based on the assumption that the CEO is married to the corporation (or that the CEO is the parent of the corporation.)  To single out female CEOs for closer criticism is predicated on the basis of traditional gender norms.  Of the type which are visible as the framework of the linked interview.

It's true, of course, that nobody can "have it all."  Just thought to mention that, before I point out that wanting both a family and meaningful work shouldn't be made so hard in the US labor markets.  More men need to start demanding work-life balance (proper vacations, more time at home than it takes to sleep, the chance to see the children when they are not asleep and so on), because if that balance is seen as a girly issue it will not be taken seriously.

Ultimately  that issue will affect even the workers who are not well-paid.  Paid parental leave, paid annual vacations and sticking to a forty-hour workweek would be good news for almost all the workers in this country.