Rice: I still think that in our society women are seen in particular roles. But it's changing very rapidly. You had Hillary Clinton, who was terrific and now you have Sarah Palin, who I think is a fantastic person. The glass ceiling is going to have to continue to be shattered by girls who truly believe they can be whatever they want to be. I think the hard sciences and new technology are the new glass ceiling.
Nooyi: I think there is a glass ceiling. I think it will go away when women help other women break through it.
Brown: You are both in male dominated profession. Were your mentors males?
Rice: I didn't start out even in diplomacy, I started out in military, so it was very male dominated. Women do have to help women. But you also have to be comfortable being first. Sally Ride would not have been the first woman astronaut if she had been looking for one to follow. Don't limit your role models to those who are like you; they can be found in any color and any gender.
Nooyi: When a man presents and messes up, the men go to the men's room and they say, you could have done better. When women could do it, two things happen. The women don't go to them and say you could have done better. And the woman tears herself down.
We have to get to the root of that issue at some point.
Brown: Women are often much tougher on each other than men are on women. Have you found that to be the case?
Rice: I guess so, although men can be tough on women. Sometimes when I stand in a classroom and look around, I think the people there are pretty scary. But then I look at the men, and some of them look scared, too.
Women are just as confident. Men have just learned how to act that way.
Brown: asked Nooyi about an anecdote when she needed to buy a business suit for an interview. She had no money, she bought a men's suit without trying it on. She did the interview, and afterward, was told that she looked kind of funny.
She was asked what she would wear in India. "I'd wear a sari," she said. She was advised to be herself; next time, wear a sari.
Rice: Sometimes, a young student or serviceman will come in and ask, how can I do what you do? (meaning become Secretary of State). The answer is, become a failed concert pianist.
She said that was her dream, but it became apparent she was not going to make it. So she decided to change her major. Her dad was afraid she'd end up as a waitress at Howard Johnson. She had two years to figure it out. She took everything, and one day landed in a class on international relations and fell in love. She wanted to study Russian.
Don't let somebody else define what you will be or what you want to be. I'm a perfect example of someone with no Russian blood who decided to study and become an expert.
Brown: Let's talk a little bit about choices. To reach your level of success, you had to make sacrifices. What were they?
Nooyi: I think any woman who gets to this position - there are so many trade offs, compromises and regrets along the way. I have two daughters, a husband of 20 years, a mother still alive and my family is very close. To get to where I am today - from where I started out, the two points don't connect. Leaving India was a big and scary choice. Deciding to stay here was a big decision. But the real regrets you have are about your kids.
Brown: Do you think your daughter regrets the time you haven't spent together?
Nooyi: Between the ages of 12 and 13, the roles reverse between mother and daughter. Now, if I ask her if I should quit my job, she says no, you've worked so hard. Now, she tucks me into bed.
Do they regret it? I'm sure they do. I'm sure they wished I'd shown up for school events like other moms. At the same time, I'm the only mother they know. That's the good news, bad news.
Rice: I'm single. I'm always asked, do you think you're working too hard and that's why you're single? I honestly think it's because I never met anybody I wanted to marry and live with.
I know I've made choices. But I think the choices and tradeoffs my parents made were important. My parents were teachers. I doubt that between them they ever made more than $60,000 a year. They managed to give me piano lessons and skating lessons and private school when we moved to Denver. I think those were tradeoffs and choices. They could have lived a comfortable life instead. And I think I was in my 20's when I realized ithey had invested everything in me instead of saving for their retirement. And I think those were tougher choices and tradeoffs than I've ever had to make.
Brown: Do you think there's anything society can do to make it easier for a working mother?
Nooyi: I think there's a lot society can do. Flex time. Leave policies when women give birth. It's going to happen at some point. Look at the demographics. I don't think we can keep up. We need women in the companies, some of the brightest candidates are women. We need to help them balance. And it doesn't have to be government, it should be corporations.
We should be providing onsite childcare.
Brown: As CEO - do you think, as the big boss, is that a focus for you while with companies run by men, that's not so much an issue?
Nooyi: As a CEO - for me to tell you women's issues are a primary focus, I'd be lying to you. But we have a very senior executive who looks at these issues. (We have one for Hispanic issues, African-American issues). We make sure that we reach out to the women in different ways. We have a special group for women of color. We found that they need more attention because they are discriminated against in different ways.
Brown: More women are earning advanced degrees. But girls are also dropping out of high school at rates almost as high as boys, especially women of color. And I've heard you describe this as a national security issue.
Rice: The appalling state of public education is a national security issue. It breaks my heart that there could be very talented kids who could be our next Nobel prize winners because they're trapped in some public school that is basically warehousing them. And as Secretary of State, it makes me terrified. And if we do not do better at educating all of our people then we can't be competitive in a world that is very competitive. If we can't compete for the highest level jobs, we're going to be protectionist. We're going to turn inward. We're not going to be able to lead.
George Shultz told me being Secretary of State is the greatest job in government. Because you represent the country. People really do believe this is a meritocracy. You can come from any place; people believe that in America you can really succeed on merit. It's part of our national myth, but it's also true. But the only thing that makes it true is equal access to education for everybody.
In a great multi-ethnic society where you are not bound by blood or religion or ethnicity. The only thing that binds us together is that it's not where you've been but where you're going. So it is for me the most pressing national security issue.
Brown: And on the campaign trail, this has not come up that much.
Rice: I grew up in segregated schools in Birmingham, Alabama. But we had teachers who bought books for their students if necessary, who stayed after school to tutor if they needed to, who came to the homes and told the parents you have a smart kid. Our teachers told us all the time, racism is their problem, not yours. I think we need to establish, not pity for children who are undereducated, but expectations for them. And then we have to deliver the tools. And we're not getting the job done.
Brown: Asked about progress in India.
Nooyi: It is mixed. In the developed world, it is not an issue. I think Africa is still a long ways behind when it comes to women and it's a tragedy. When you go to Latin America, I think women are slowly coming to major positions. In Mexico and Argentina, some are. I think here in the United States we are making the most progress. Countries like Singapore and China, there are women in high places. I think women have to speak up for women again to change things. I think you then have to make the case for women.
Rice: If I could do one thing in the world to fight poverty, I would empower women. Because when women are empowered, they bring along not just their own family but their entire village. Education for women in places like Afghanistan - this was a country where women were not permitted to learn to read. Why would the Taliban prevent women from learning to read? It's the same as denying it to slaves. When you give people the tools, you empower them and their possibilities are limited. (and it becomes a threat to power)
Brown: Do you think the stability in those countries where democracy is teetering is depending on women making progress?
Rice: Absolutely. Because when women are educated, they do things differently. Important to have important role models. We now have a network of women foreign leaders who try to advocate on issues like women in warfare. Get women to access in the justice system. I think having a group like that advocate for women is important but the best will be when women in those societies can advocate for themselves.
Brown: Two women in this election across the political spectrum. What role do you think women have paved in this election?
Nooyi mentioned Hillary Clinton, who "blew her away."
Rice: I'll talk about both. I really see that it will no longer be a novelty. In four years or eight years if a woman is at the top of the ticket it won't be a novelty. Because what you are seeing is women moving into positions. Hillary Clinton was a senator. Sarah Palin governor of Alaska. While it may seem that it's sudden, it actually isn't. It's been building as women have moved into state houses, into Congress, into Senate. And you're never going to say again that it's a novelty. And I think they're both terrific.
Brown asked Rice about her own aspirations. Is political office?
Rice: I have had the great honor of representing this country and it really is extraordinary because you see from outside the great strengths of America. I'll come back to California. I plan to go to Stanford, where I'm on leave. And I will go to the Hoover Institution. I plan to write a book or two about foreign policy and this extraordinary time since 9/11. And I want to write about my parents. I want to write about these educational evangelists. But most of all, I want to work on educational opportunity because we can't be the country we have been unless we face this problem. I'd like to help mobilize. And I'd like to play the piano some more.