Indra Nooyi speaks on stage during the 2020 Women’s Watermark Conference at the San Jose Convention Center on February 12, 2020 in San Jose, California.

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When economies enter a new phase of growth, the next 20 years will be “the decades of women,” says former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi.

The Indian-American businesswoman said the coming years will mark a turning point for women as society tries to recover from the pandemic while addressing demographic challenges. She also called on companies and countries to stand behind the change.

“I don’t think there is an economy in the world that can thrive without realizing the incredible potential of women in the future. I just don’t think that is possible,” said Nooyi, an integral part of the world ranking of powerful women .

“I also think that almost every economy in the world needs women in order to have children because we need the replacement rate for the world,” she continued. “We should sit down and say, ‘You need us.’ They need us for the economy, they need children, and we’ve put in the unpaid work so far. So I look to the next few decades and say ‘it’s our time’. “

They need us for the economy, they need us to have children … So I look to the next couple of decades and say, “It’s our time.”

Indra Nooyi

Ex-CEO, PepsiCo

Nooyi spoke at a virtual event hosted by Procter & Gamble and the United Nations Women, titled #WeSeeEqual.

Closing the gender gap

In a report last year, the United Nations predicted that the coronavirus pandemic will affect women more than men, further exacerbating existing gender gaps.

However, Nooyi, who was widely lauded for her transformation of PepsiCo, including its diversity and inclusion agenda, said there is an opportunity for companies and countries to fill the void by focusing on three key areas.

“First, every business and government should insist on paid leave,” she said, highlighting paid maternity, paternity and family leave as critical.

“Second, thank God for Covid, now we have flexibility,” she continued, noting that flexible work can be a huge opportunity for women to participate. Not only does that mean moving the office home, it also means enabling hybrid work models and flextime so employees can “find a new equation” that works for them, she said.

“The third most important is childcare facilities,” she said.

These three elements need to work together to bring about change, Nooyi said. But she is hopeful: “I would say it will be a different world; there will be a lot more equality than we saw before.”