Women Leaders

PepsiCo CEO: Don't Call People 'Sweetie' or 'Honey' in the Workplace

PepsiCo CEO: Don't Call People 'Sweetie' or 'Honey' in the Workplace

PepsiCo Inc. CEO Indra Nooyri

Image credit: Bloomberg | Getty Images
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Despite the decline of formalities such as “sir” and “ma’am” in favor of first-name-basis relationships, there’s one type of antiquated designation that persists -- even at the top of the most prominent companies.

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi condemned the use of terms of endearment in the workplace on Friday at the seventh annual Women in the World Summit. “We’ve got to be treated as executives or people rather than honey, or sweetie, or babe,” Nooyi says. “That has to change.”

By adding “people,” Nooyi implied that it’s a two-way street: infantilizing or sexist terms of endearment have no place in a professional environment, regardless of whether they’re directed toward a boss or an intern. It’s a matter of dignity.

Related: What Women Want From the Workplace: An End to Sexism

Nooyi’s aversion toward belittling nicknames was just one of the issues she aired at the summit. In a conversation with author and New America CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter moderated by CBS This morning co-host Norah O’Donnell, Nooyi discussed topics such as the availability and quality of daycare services and the importance of supportive relationships among women colleagues.

“At the end of the day, we also want to be, if we want to be, wives, daughters, daughters-in-law, sisters, whatever," Nooyi says. "We want to play that role, too. And society wants us to play that role.”

It’s up to women, she argues, to fight for the cultural and institutional changes that will make it easier for them to fulfill all of their responsibilities.

This is not the first time Nooyi has spoken out about the treatment of women at work. At the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival, she echoed Slaughter’s famous assertion that women “can’t have it all” as she recounted the challenges of balancing motherhood with her career. While she’s not shy about her regrets, she sees the potential to relieve women from painful tradeoff decisions when it comes to work and family.

Related: Even World Cup Winners Are Not Immune to the Gender Pay Gap

However, during Friday’s panel Slaughter mentioned that she now avoids using the phrase “have it all” because it “feeds an elitist narrative,” despite the title of her groundbreaking 2012 Atlantic essay. Rather, the focus should be on “finishing the business” of making sure women have the resources they need to get their jobs done at work and at home.

Sounds like it’s time to banish “have it all” along with “sweetie,” “honey” and the like.

Check out video of the summit panel below:

Edition: November 2016

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