PepsiCo CEO on Criticism: What Women Should Do Differently in the Workplace

Women in the World is a digital experience created by Tina Brown in collaboration with the New York Times, whose mission is to feature female CEOs, activists, entrepreneurs, artists—all kinds of movers and shakers, in the world of business and beyond. These women are successful, passionate, and have likely spent lifetimes shattering glass ceilings and paving the way for a generation of women to come. The digital platform features narratives, videos, discussions, and thoughts from women (and men), and is well worth your time exploring if you’ve not yet happened across the content they create.

I stumbled across a recent video featuring PepsiCO Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi that was interesting. Nooyi was talking about the differences in the way men and women treat one another with regard to criticism, and how women should change that. I thought her point brilliantly made. In a nutshell, men are frank with one another. They don’t sugarcoat things and just say it like it is. Men take that criticism, make adjustments and move on.

Conversely, when a woman offers criticism to another woman, the prevailing thought is “Well, isn’t she a bitch.” I’ve not thought about it before, but I have to admit that as a leader, giving another woman criticism, even when she works for me, is never easy. Think about it for a minute. As a business leader or manager, do you construct criticism differently when you are addressing a male employee rather than a female?

What about in a situation where you are interacting with peers? If you see a woman making a misstep, do you offer constructive criticism, or do you keep your mouth shut? For me, it depends on the relationship I have with that woman and what I know about her. Before saying a thing, I actively spend time thinking about what reaction to criticism I might get. In some instances, I do offer criticism. In many others, I opt to stay silent because the risk isn’t worth it. Watch the video, think about your experiences, and then let me know what you think.

Indra Nooyi: Women don’t help women enough

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi: “I don’t believe women help women enough in the workplace.” #WITW

Posted by Women in the World on Saturday, April 9, 2016

Like Nooyi, I believe that the ability of women to succeed relies a lot on opportunities for mentorship by other women, as well as in our ability to give, and receive, criticism in constructive ways. She has a point. We need to do better. We can do better. I’m going to resolve to do that—whether it is doing a better job of offering up constructive criticism where warranted, or doing more to reach out to women in need of a mentor and offering a hand. Like Nooyi, all my mentors have been men. And today, the people I mentor are also men. Not because I sought them out, but instead because they sought my counsel.

Did you watch the video? Agree with Nooyi or have a different point of view? In either instance, I’d love to hear it.

Bonus tip: If you want to watch something really interesting, dive into this discussion with Nooyi and Anne-Marie Slaughter on “The Unfinished Business of Work-Life Balance” where two women at the top of their game, who have also managed to raise children in the process of building careers, talk about the myth of having it all—and what you sacrifice in the process. It is spectacular as well.

I love what the Times is doing with this platform and, in spite of the fact that I’m a subscriber and daily NYT reader, I didn’t know it existed. Yet another example of how publishers are utilizing social media (in this case The Facebook, which is where I saw this interview), to reach an audience.