PepsiCo's India-born CEO Indra Nooyi has acknowledged that managing her family life and work was "not easy" and while she does not regret pursuing her career, she is filled with "heartaches" for not spending as much time with her daughters when they were growing up.
In a candid discussion, Nooyi, among the only 4 per cent women who are currently CEOs of S&P 500 companies, said she would tell her younger self to be "careful" of the choices she would make since missing out on her children growing up will eventually "hurt".
"Not easy," Nooyi said at the Women In the World Summit here when asked how it was for her balancing her personal life while moving up in her career.
When asked if she has any regrets looking back, Nooyi, one of the most powerful and influential businesswomen in the world, said that she does not regret pursuing her career but is filled with heartaches for "working all the time" and being away from her daughters while they were growing up.
"Regret is too serious a word. Heartaches many times. It is not regret. I love what I'm doing. I may have regretted not doing it had I stayed at home and spent all the time there.
Regret is a very complex word," she said in a very frank discussion alongwith president and CEO of New America Foundation Anne-Marie Slaughter at the summit presented by renowned journalist and author Tina Brown.
Nooyi also recalled "painful" stories of how her daughters felt being away from their mother so much, mentioning that her then 4-5 year-old daughter once wrote to her saying she loves her but "I love you more if you came home. Please come home Mom." Nooyi said she has preserved the letter to "remind myself of what I lost."
Calling on governments, companies and societies to finish the "big unfinished business", she stressed on the need for "the next revolution" where a supportive ecosystem is created to help families raise children while ensuring the women are able to focus on their careers at the same time.
Nooyi emphasised that maternity and paternity leave alone is not the solution since even if parental leave is extended to "52 weeks", the infant is still only a year old and it is not easy for a mother to leave her child at home and focus on work.
She added that staying away from work for too long is also not an easy option for many women since once "they are away for a year or two years, they have lost their place in the queue."
Nooyi said PepsiCo is looking at building a daycare center on the company campus here that would have facilities like care for sick babies and technology to enable parents to see what their kids are doing during the day.
She suggested that aging parents can help supervise day cares where children are placed under the attention of qualified and certified care givers.
"We have to create these things. They don't just happen.
Everybody cannot be Indian," she said, referring to the support system that Indian families have where grandparents and other relatives help in raising kids.