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International Women’s Day on March 8 celebrated women and gender equality and women have come a long way towards achieving a stronger leadership presence at the executive and board level. But the glass ceiling still exists and many women face barriers in attaining high ranking positions in business and politics.

An exception is Indra Nooyi. The global CEO of PepsiCo, Nooyi is in the select band of women who head Fortune 500 companies and is regarded as the one of the world’s top leaders in business. Forbes has ranked her at No. 12 in its list of ‘Most Powerful Women in the World’ and in 2009, she was named one of the ‘Top Gun CEOs’ in the US. Nooyi was also part of Fortune’s list of ‘Most Powerful Women in Business’ in 2009 and 2010.

Emerging leaders, such as Nooyi, are striving to be social entrepreneurs, creating possibilities for social change by incorporating their values into their work and attempting to bring positive changes in their workplace and society at large. After reaching the top, Nooyi has been keen to help other women – and minorities – up the ladder by making the case for diversity in business. She is making efforts to promote gender equality and leadership roles for women by creating networks and support systems to help them balance their priorities.

Nooyi says, “We are trying to create a workforce that is multicultural, multigenerational and has strong female leadership. Women in leadership roles makes good business sense. Results of surveys show that companies having more women on their boards, and as leaders, achieve superior performance both in financial terms and in other aspects.”

According to Nooyi, the fact that PepsiCo’s workforce is inclusive contributes to a better understanding of consumers worldwide and satisfying their needs, especially since women today represent 70% of all buying decisions made around the world.

Under Nooyi, PepsiCo has set up the Women’s Inspiration Network where stories of women around the world are told and discussed so that other women can draw lessons from them for themselves. Nooyi strongly believes that women are important to the future of the world, but more importantly, with the maturation of the digital space, they are empowered to influence the world from the confines of their homes.

– Fauzia Kerai Khan

The writer is Chief Consultant, i&b Consulting, Training, 
eLearning. fauzia@iandbconsulting.com.