For those of you who follow C-level leadership at the Fortune 500 you may have noticed that PepsiCo's, Indra Nooyi, stepped down yesterday in her 12-year role as CEO. Without diving into her amazing accomplishments at the company with eco-friendliness and increased revenues, her significance as a leader for women was seemingly much more powerful. While it hasn't been released why she is stepping down, it seems as though after her time on the chair ends early next year she will be done with PepsiCo for good.
According to AdWeek Indra's leave brings the female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies count from 24 to 23. In 2017, that number was 32! This is alarming considering all of the progress women have seemed to make in the last couple of years, but showcases we are still barely past the starting line to equality.
This move also leaves ONE woman of color as CEO of a Fortune 500 company: Geisha Williams, CEO of PG&E Corp, a latina woman from Cuba. There are ZERO black women CEOs currently in a Fortune 500 CEO position. Ursula Burns is the only black woman CEO (Xerox) that I've ever been familiar with.
There are also only three black male CEOs currently on the list (Kenneth Frazier ofMerck, Roger Ferguson Jr. of TIAA, and Marvin Ellison of J.C. Penney), so this definitely goes beyond issues of feminism and don't even get me going on how many Fortune 500 companies share little to NO information about their company diversity make-up - can you imagine the PR nightmare if we could visually show the discrimination on all levels of each company?
Fortune.com estimates that of any high-ranking officials in Fortune 500 companies "80% are men and 72% of those men are white". How is this possible when only 62% of our population is white male?
The overall point is women represent less than 5% of the decision making at our nation's biggest corporations at any given time...yet we are 50-51% of the population (and often over 75% likely to make decisions for our household and families).
It's not uncommon for CEOs to hop around companies - in fact, being a "professional CEO" is a thing (check out both of these articles from KornFerry Institute and Forbes if you're interested!). I surely hope that means we will see more of Indra around as she transitions out of her role with PepsiCo. Lord knows we could use more women thought leadership just in the way of consumerism even.
Without turning this into an attack on the white male, I want to switch gears here...what does this mean for women who want to become a CEO of a large corporation?
It means we fight back. We work harder. We don't take no for an answer. We do not become comfortable or complacent in our roles. We take mentorship and mentor OTHER WOMEN. Only a woman in a powerful position like Indra was/is is uniquely qualified to share their story of success and how to combat the blatant sexism in the work force. We learn from their successes. We walk on eggshells until we break the glass ceilings still plaguing us and we teach our daughters to do the same (and our sons to respect this journey).
Above all, we keep going.
I'm always looking for community members to join forces with so please e-mail me if you're an aspiring business leader looking to connect to other badass women in your industry or similar situations.