PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi Steps Down, Now There’s Only One Woman Of Color Who Is A Fortune 500 CEO

pepsico ceo indra nooyi steps down, women of color fortune 500 Photo via Facebook

This morning, Monday, August 6th, Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo announced she’s stepping down after twelve years of working in the executive position. Ramon Laguarta, who worked with Pepsico for 22 years, is next in line to run the company.

Though an amicable end, many are lamenting Nooyi’s decision to step down. One of the  4.8% of women CEOs, the loss of Nooyi feels huge. Nooyi was among just two Fortune 500 CEO’s who were women of color. Geisha J. Williams is now the only woman of color who is a Fortune 500 CEO currently. 

Despite Laguarta’s qualifications, there’s worry about the bigger picture, with the amount of women CEOs dropping a whole 25% in just the last year (translation… in 2017 the number was at a record high of 32 women it’s now dropped to 24). This includes major players stepping down, like Denise Morrison of Campbell’s and Sheri McCoy at Avon, whose seat was taken over by a white man, the most prominent demographic holding executive offices.

After Ursula Burns, the first Black woman to run Xerox and occupy the position of CEO of any S&P company at large stepped down in 2016, women of color in business have been looking to Nooyi as inspiration. Earlier today TicToc by Bloomberg tweeted a video of Nooyi relating a piece of her experience as one of the few women of color in a predominantly white, male field.

“Being an Indian immigrant got me attention because I was often the only colored person in the room. That got me attention but I had to work harder to prove color and gender actually should not be counted against me. I could do a damn good job too.”

The many crossroads of Nooyi’s life make her an inspiration to many. She hasn’t been shy about sharing her financial struggles when first migrating to the United States to attend Yale University. At her summer job, she wore a sari to work every day, because she could not afford new clothes. When she first began working in business, she had only two suits to wear. At first, she was embarrassed by this, but ultimately, came to decide that she was there to be more than a pretty face. She was there to do business.

In her time serving as CEO, she increased Pepsi’s revenue by 162%, taking them from a measly 35 billion dollar income when she started in 2006 to a whopping 63.5 billion by the end of 2017. In a statement released on Pepsico’s website, Nooyi says she’s “incredibly proud” of all the company has accomplished and that leading was the “honor” of a lifetime. 

Nooyi spoke about that experience at this year’s Forbes Women Summit, an event that features strong women leaders and aims to serve as inspiration for women globally.  

“I decided after a while I was never going to win the looks battle. I focused on the brains part. I focused on doing the job better than anyone else could do it.”

For over a decade, Nooyi has served as an inspiration for a diverse range of women to believe in their ability to get the job done and secure their seats in top positions. The trail she blazed and legacy she left are indicative that women of color, and women at large, are more than capable of leading the way, despite what the patriarchy may tell you.  

Regina Fontanelli

About Regina Fontanelli

Regina Fontanelli is a Posse scholar and rising freshmen at Middlebury College, where she plans to major in creative writing. Her poetry has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and the Brooklyn Public Library’s teen journal. In the past year, she has co-written and produced a play about the mistreatment of refugees for the Harry Warren Theater and won first place for her memoir, Swing Sets, in Penguin Random House’s creative writing awards. She attended Edward R. Murrow high school and was a mentee in Girls Write Now, a non-profit matching girls from underserved communities with writing mentors.
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