TWO POWERFUL WOMEN SMASHING BUSINESS BARRIERS
Last month we celebrated ‘International Women’s Day’. The global event commemorated the struggle for women’s rights, celebrates their achievements and highlights the ongoing inequality women still face all over the world.
A significant part of that struggle takes place in the workplace. Sadly many women are still paid less for doing the same job as their male counterparts. They're more likely to suffer discrimination, sexual harassment and increased pressure, often due to taking on more than their fair share of family commitments at home, resulting in an even further skewed work/life balance.
Let’s face it, women are still getting a raw deal. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Things are slowly changing, year on year. Thanks, in no small part to the millions of inspirational examples that women set for themselves. These examples don’t just inspire women to succeed, they inspire everyone.
This financial year has been a groundbreaking year for women in business, with both IBM and Google appointing their first female CEOs. The glass ceiling is still there, but it’s thinner, more translucent, creaking and hopefully about to come crashing down for good. Until that happens, let’s look at a couple of inspirational business women who are making monumental waves in their male-dominated industries.
So, to mark International Women’s Day we highlighted the careers of two incredibly industrious ladies that are not only changing the world of business, they’re changing the world, full stop. These women are true captains of industry and a credit, not just to their sex, but to their profession. We hope they inspire you too.
INDRA NOOYI, CEO, PEPSICO
Drinking a can of Pepsi is a great leveller. From billionaires to dustbin men, Pepsi is enjoyed by all. But PepsiCo is responsible for more than fizzy drinks. They’re actually the second largest food and drink company in the world. Leading a multinational company like PepsiCo takes unimaginable skill and the strongest of shoulders. Step forward, Indra Nooyi.
One of the ‘Top Gun’ CEOs in the world right now, Indra Nooyi grew up in Madras (now known as Chennai) in India. She was smart and she worked hard, eventually gaining a bachelor’s degree in physics, chemistry, and mathematics.
Indra would have made an excellent scientist, but the world of big business beckoned and she used her degree to gain management experience in Johnson and Johnson. This experience led her to pursue a place at the prestigious Yale School of Management, in the United States, where she was awarded her master's degree. In turn, Indra’s qualifications helped her to secure high profile strategy positions at Motorola and Asea Brown Boveri. But it was at PepsiCo where her career really took off.
Joining the company in 1994, Indra became PepsiCo’s CFO, President, then CEO, where she has developed the company’s global strategy for more than a decade, and that decade has gone very well for both Indra and PepsiCo.
Forbes Magazine ranked Indra on every one of their ‘Most Powerful Women' list, from 2008 to 2016. This year she’s number 2 and PepsiCo is going stronger than ever. But the key thing in all of this is that PepsiCo’s success can be directly attributed to Indra’s innovative and responsible strategy.
Indra welcomed in a new era for the company by pronouncing that PepsiCo is no longer a soda company. In fact, less than 25% of their global sales now comes from soda. Indra told investors that focusing solely on carbonated beverages was "a thing of the past," and that emphasising healthier products would "future-proof" PepsiCo’s portfolio.
Indra reclassified PepsiCo’s products into three categories: “Fun for you” featuring products such as potato chips and regular Pepsi. “Better for you” which includes diet or low-fat versions of snacks and sodas, and “Good for you” consisting of newly acquired healthy items such as oatmeal.
Indra worked hard to demonstrate the value of moving corporate spending away from junk foods and into healthier alternatives, improving the healthiness of even the “fun” offerings. She spearheaded new initiatives such as the removal of aspartame from Diet Pepsi, furthering the company’s shift towards healthier foods.
Indra Nooyi’s story is one of smart moves, savvy strategy, sustained success and a serious commitment to making even the most sugar-filled sodas better for mankind. Indra also has more accolades and awards than most CEOs combined, but her proudest achievements come in the form of her two daughters, one of which is following in her mother’s footsteps and acing Yale Management School.
PATTY JENKINS, DIRECTOR
Hollywood is a powerful machine and it’s often held responsible for the global representation of women in film and television. But the industry is still dominated at almost every level by men.
That’s why, for every amazing female character there are a dozen forgettable ones. For every brilliant FBI Agent Clarice Starling, there are a hundred dead prostitutes. For every multi-layered heroine, there are a thousand vapid girlfriends.
Too often women serve only as a foil to the villain and arm candy to the hero, a prize to be won when all goes well. But while things are gradually getting better for women on the screen, behind the scenes it’s often a different story.
To affect real change some women are picking up the microphone and calling the shots themselves. One of them is Patty Jenkins, she’s bringing a true feminist icon to life this summer in a long overdue big-screen, big-budget debut of another powerful lady – Wonder Woman.
Warner Bros are hoping that the film will get their DCEU (DC Expanded Universe) movies back on track, beating rival studio Marvel and proving that female-led action movies can kick butt at the box office as well as on screen.
Early word is good and Warners expect a big hit and a large part of their confidence stems from the proven talents of the woman at the helm.
Patty Jenkins is a director with some serious stones. Although she won an Emmy nomination and two DGA awards for her directorial efforts on the cult crime TV show The Killing, movie offers weren’t as forthcoming as they should have been. But Patty didn’t wait to be rescued, she took matters into her own hands.
The story of notorious serial killer Aileen Wuornos isn’t for the faint-hearted and the protagonist was firmly behind bars. Tackling a thought provoking, authentic movie on the subject and attracting the right cast would be difficult for even the most seasoned directors. But seemingly not for Patty Jenkins.
Patty wrote the screenplay for 'Monster' herself, with full support from Aileen Wuornos and she did it in only seven weeks. She even set up the production in only two months (practically unheard of in Hollywood). She went on to nab A-list actress, Charlize Theron for the lead and the rest is history.
In 2009 Monster was named one of the best films of the decade by respected film critic Roger Ebert. Charlize Theron received universal acclaim and won seventeen awards for her portrayal of Aileen Wuornos, including the Academy Award for Best Actress. Patty Jenkins had made it and she had Hollywood knocking down her door with scripts galore.
Wonder Woman (epic trailer above) is a crucially important film for Warner Brothers. It’s budget is rumoured to be over $100m and big name (male) movie directors including Ivan Reitman, Josh Whedon and Nicolas Winding Refn were all vying for the director’s chair, at different stages in production. But it was Patty who took the reigns (or should that be lasso?) and got the film out of development hell and into principal photography.
Wonder Woman opens worldwide on the 2nd June. The film's performance will be watched closely. Industry insiders are hopeful that the female-led film will break the bad box office streak of other (male directed) female comic book movies like ‘Electra’ and ‘Catwoman’ and give Wonder Woman the movie she deserves. Yes, the claws may be out by some, but if anyone can turn female-led comic book movies around and give the industry the confidence to create more, Patty Jenkins can.
We like to think that we live in enlightened times, but it’s sobering to think that women (that’s more than 50% of the population, by the way) still need a special day of recognition.
We strongly support International Women’s Day and what it stands for. But we also look forward to a time when all people are treated equally as a matter of course, no matter what, in the workplace or otherwise. Women in business and people, in general, deserve equality all year-round. Let’s give it to them.
Read more about International Women's Day here.