Fortune, Forbes, and Pepsi
Last month Forbes released its list of most powerful women, Fortune held its conference for women leaders, and Indra Nooyi became CEO of PepsiCo. Women are making headlines, but what is the real story behind the news?
Forbes revealed that Indra’s appointment was because the board and the existing CEO Steven Reinemund really pushed for a female CEO despite objections that Indra didn’t have the comprehensive experience they might have found from an external candidate. Many CEOs, in fact many business leaders, don’t have comprehensive experience. The point here is that the men in charge were one of the 10 types of guys that empower women.
A friend told me in confidence that when Carly Fiorina became CEO of HP, the back story was that Lou Platt, HP’s founder, had just lost his wife to cancer and specifically requested the consideration of a female candidate for the CEO post in order to honor his wife. The surprise was that Carly consistently insisted that being female was not considered when selecting her as CEO.
All of the women Fortune considered the most powerful can fit into one room for one conference. There must not be a whole lot of them. Fortune began inviting writers and researchers on women’s issues to fill up the room and create lively discussion, and it was lively and inspiring. But it also illustrates that there is a long way to go before we don’t need to gather at a women’s conference to discuss the problem of women’s career empowerment because it’s obvious we have achieved parity rather than tokenism.
I think it is going to take an open discussion of how men’s influence works on women’s careers so that there is a larger candidate pool of successful women with the experience required to fill the leadership and talent headcount requirements are already available.