Indra Nooyi: Need to fund, mentor women in business

RITU JHA

Silicon Valley must invest in women entrepreneurs — that was the message Indra Nooyi, one of the most powerful women in the corporate world, drove home at TiEcon 2020.

TiEcon is TiE Silicon Valley’s flagship entrepreneurship conference that is a prominent highlight of the Bay Area calendar.

Nooyi, former chairman and chief executive officer of PepsiCo, who has consistently figured in lists of the world’s most powerful women, delivered the grand opening keynote September 2 at TiEcon 2020.

Nooyi said she was concerned that only 2.3 percent of venture funding goes to women entrepreneurs.

I think everybody in Silicon Valley should be ashamed because 70 percent of high school valedictorians are women, 56 per cent of the top grades in colleges are gotten by women. MIT graduates 47 percent of women in the engineering school [annually]…

Where have all the women gone,” she asked. “Why are venture capitalists not staffed with capable women?”

“Somebody has to sit down and say okay, we’re going to start a program to enable women and minorities to really make a contribution, especially because all the solutions you’re developing are also supposed to help women and minorities. Because it’s supposed to help the world, and the world includes women and minorities too.”

She underlined the need for right mentorship.

“Today, I think we need more mentors and supporters for the women. There is no substitute for hard work and competence, but if you don’t have mentors, supporters and people that believe in you, it’s very hard to function,” she said.

“The time has come for us to intervene and make progress.”

Nooyi, known for successfully running PepsiCo for 12 years, also highlighted how the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted life. She said that technology has made the pandemic survivable.

Without online shopping like Amazon, we might not have survived the pandemic as smoothly as we have,” she said by way of example.

Education needs to be reimagined, she stressed.

Nobody has thought through a very intelligent way to bridge online and offline. The right interventions for kids are falling behind how to use the right tools and technology to visualize three dimensional objects for kids. We haven’t done any of that so there’s a whole opportunity to deploy a suite of tools in the tech world,” she said.

“I don’t want a lot of technology. I want a real solution that makes up in society, in a way, I’m challenging people in Silicon Valley,” said Nooyi, who is currently a member of the Board of Trustees at MIT and Amazon’s board of directors.

She last year joined as the co-director of the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, a public-private partnership with the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.

TiE Elated

BJ Arun, TiE Silicon Valley president, told indica News he was very pleased at how TiEcon had pulled through even at this time of pandemic.

This is a historic high water mark in our 27-year history of TiE. We had over 7331 attendees today [September 2],” he said.

When the pandemic hit California in March, the TiE leadership thought to cancel the conference but he said they should stay determined and pushed hard for the virtual conference.

“I am extremely pleased …actually thrilled,” said Arun, whose terms as president of TiE SV ends this year.

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