Sunday, April 17, 2011

Guilt and a Powerful Woman In Business

CNN's Fareed Zakaria interviewed Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo's Chairman and CEO on his April 17th Sunday's program. It was a fascinating interview. She is an Indian-born American Executive who is clearly a powerful woman in business. 

When asked how she got to be the most powerful woman in business, Nooyi said it was through hard work. There was so much about this interview that was fascinating and insightful but there was one part of this interview that must resonate with women who balance their work life with their personal family life.

When Zakaria asked how she balances work with family life she talked about guilt and how it relates to raising her children. She said she was lucky that she has a husband who participates in every aspect of family life. She then went on to tell the story of her daughter amd a time when she waited  for her mother to come home from work because she wanted to tell her something important. At 10 o'clock she still wasn't home so she just went to bed. Nooyi said she wondered what she missed that was so important in her daughter's life. She said yes there is guilt and she has had to bury the guilt and go on. She said this with emotion in her eyes and her voice.

Here is a woman who has been named number one on Fortune Magazine's annual ranking of most powerful women in business in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. Forbes Magazine ranked her third on the 2008 and 2009 list of the World's 100 Most Powerful Women.  In 2008, Nooyi was named one of America's Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report.

Her story of guilt as it relates to balancing work with family is an all too familiar story for women everywhere who had to make difficult choices when deciding to move up the corporate ladder, start their own business, run for political office, become a doctor or lawyer, and yes, just being a working mother. And not all women have the choice to work or remain in the home to raise their children.

It is a story that I myself grappled with as a working mother. I worked for a large company out East  and grappled with working 12 hour days and then driving an hour commute home, knowing my son was eating dinner with my caregiver family instead of with me. Being stuck in a meeting at the end of the day, knowing my daycare school closed at 6 p.m. and I was once again going to pay late fees and my son would be sitting waiting for me to pick him up.

Gut wrenching feelings of being an inadequate mother who was letting her son down. I was a single, divorced parent and didn't have a husband who was a willing participant in every aspect of family life. I worked hard to ensure time away from work was dedicated to his needs and being with him.  I am not alone in this scenario. Woman everywhere live this everyday.

Back when I was beginning my career, the workplace was just in its infancy in recognizing the balance of work with family. I remember when I would have my son call me when he came home from school so I could be reassured he was home safely. I was told that the workplace was not a daycare center and that the call was not appropriate at work.

The workplace has come a long way but there is still room for improvement.  I guess it doesn't really matter whether you are the most powerful woman in business or a working mother helping make ends meet in Sioux Falls, SD, balancing work with family life brings feelings of guilt.

It's what you do about that guilt that makes a difference. When I talked to my adult son about those feelings of being an inadequate mother as he was growing up, he looked at me with confusion.  He said, what are you talking about? He told me I was the best mother and he had a wonderful life growing up. My heart filled with love and gratitude.

We working mother do the best we can and whether we are fortunate to have a husband who actively participates in every aspect of family life or not, guilt happens. Let's hope their workplace respects the balance of work with family life and doesn't make women chose between the two because guilt will find a home in that talented, hardworking woman's life.

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