Money is so tacky, darling, don’t you think? Indra Nooyi, who was one of the highest-paid CEOs in the world during her tenure at PepsiCo, certainly seems to take that view. In an interview this month with the New York Times’ magazine, Nooyi bragged that she has “never, ever, ever asked for a raise”. Her underlings at PepsiCo apparently used to ask her to demand one, because their compensation was pegged to hers, but Nooyi refused to be so grubby. “I find it cringeworthy,” the 65-year-old opined. “I cannot imagine working for somebody and saying my pay is not enough.”
Isn’t it funny how the only people who think money isn’t important are the ones who have gobs of it? Nooyi is right that she didn’t need a rise: she earned $31m (£23m) in her final year as PepsiCo’s CEO. By one calculation, she was paid 650 times more than the company’s average employee. She is now on the board of Amazon, which isn’t exactly known for providing a utopian working environment where employees gush about how much they are paid. Meanwhile, income inequality has jumped to record levels. If Nooyi can’t imagine how someone can say they are not being paid enough, she must have an incredibly poor imagination.
It is not just Nooyi’s empathy that could do with some work; it is also her self-awareness. There is a jaw-dropping bit in the same interview where, in what must be a misguided attempt to be perceived as humble, she talks about how her family has lived in the same house for more than 30 years. “We didn’t move into a bigger house,” she says. “All we did was buy the properties next door to ours and take down the house so that nobody would build a gigantic mansion.”
People like Nooyi tend to have teams of PRs who make sure they don’t say stupid things in interviews. How on earth did they let her embarrass herself like this? I can only conclude that they have never, ever, ever been given a rise.
• Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist