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Outgoing Pepsi CEO: How 'Sex and the City' 'profoundly altered my thinking'

Melody Hahm
Senior Writer

Pepsi (PEP) CEO Indra Nooyi, who’s stepping down in October, doesn’t have much free time between managing her 260,000 employees and spending time with her family. But she recently indulged in some epic binge-watching.

She discovered “Sex and the City” on HBO a few months ago and was immediately hooked on the show, which chronicled the fictional lives of four single New York City women from 1998 to 2004.

“I watched all 94 episodes. I binge watched it. There were so many scenes that focus on the first word and not the other three words…but you can fast forward. Every episode had a lesson. The biggest takeaway was the sisterhood of these women,” she said at the Forbes Women’s Summit in NYC in June.

“The sisterhood they had was fantastic. Why don’t we have a sisterhood? The more I [watched] that show I said, ‘Man, we have to have our own safe spot where we can talk about our issues. You can’t talk about it at home. No one wants to hear about work at home. We need an environment where sisterhood doesn’t judge us but gives us constructive feedback. Where we can talk about Mr. Big in a comfortable way,” she said on a panel with Priyanka Chopra about “Breaking Barriers, Engaging Billions,” referring to the elusive love interest of the show’s protagonist, Carrie Bradshaw.

Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi and actress Priyanka Chopra during the 2018 Forbes Women’s Summit at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers on June 19, 2018 in New York City.

After receiving her MBA from Yale School of Management, Nooyi held a variety of consulting and strategy positions before joining Pepsi in 1994. She eventually became CFO in 2001 and CEO in 2006.

Reflecting on her experience as an immigrant from a conservative Indian family, Nooyi said she never fit in with her classmates or coworkers.

“No one gave me dressing instructions. I worried about how I was perceived. I was the only woman in the room and I already looked different,” she said.

She wished she could been part of a tight-knit friend group like the one Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda shared on “Sex and the City.”

That show profoundly altered my thinking because while showing fashions, which were awesome, but it was really about what was behind the covers. The sisterhood of women. Let’s put ourselves in charge. That sisterhood needs to form. And when we get there, I think there’s no stopping us,” she said.

On Monday, PepsiCo said that Nooyi would be stepping down after 12 years as CEO. Twenty-two-year company veteran Ramon Laguarta will take over in October, and Nooyi will remain chairman of the board until early 2019.

Melody Hahm is a senior writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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