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WFF Aims for Gender Equality in Food Industry by 2025


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"Break Through" is the theme at this year's Women's Foodservice Forum leadership conference.

Cheers, upbeat music and a general sense of female empowerment dominate the WFF’s Annual Leadership Development Conference, where career advancement and leadership growth of women in the food industry are the focus and premier speakers champion the strides made. It was a sobering start to the day, then, when Celia Huber, a senior partner at McKinsey & Co., pulled up a slide reading: “At current rates, it will take more than 100 years to reach gender equality in the C-suite.”

That’s among the findings of Women in the Workplace 2017, a study by global consultancy McKinsey and LeanIn.org of the state of women in corporate America. Looking closer at the food industry, “women are underrepresented at every level,” said Huber, with white men comprising 70 percent of foodservice executives in the C-suite. White women account for 19 percent of C-level leaders, women of color 3 percent and men of color 7 percent.

Despite women accounting for nearly 50 percent of entry-level positions, there’s a “leaky pipeline” across all three segments of the foodservice industry (distribution, manufacturing, operations), continued Huber, with fewer women making it to the top.

The study also found disparity between what companies say they’re doing on gender equality and real action.

“Although the majority of food industry corporations say they are committed to gender diversity, only half of employees agree,” said Huber.

Perception, too, is part of the problem, noted Huber, as 60 percent of men think women are well-represented in leadership roles “despite the hard facts to the contrary.”

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The WFF—Women’s Foodservice Forum—announced its Lead The Way initiative with a goal of gender equality in the food industry by 2025. Calling out another McKinsey research point, the organization noted that $12 trillion could be added to the annual global GDP by 2025 if the gender gap is narrowed.

And in the food industry specifically, gender equality will help address a pressing need for talent, drive better consumer insights, and increase organizational performance.

McKinsey has also found that companies that lead in gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above the industry median, and report the relationship is growing.

WFF’s key imperatives aim to:

  • Achieve a critical mass of CEOs, senior decision-makers and organizations who actively advance women leaders in the food industry
  • Drive a pipeline of prepared women leaders advancing in the food industry
  • Create an industry-recognized Gender Equity Index to track and propel women’s progress.

The conference runs through March 7 in Dallas, with more than 3,500 foodservice executives expected to attend. Keynote speeches will include former First Lady Michelle Obama and TV news personalities Maria Shriver and Gretchen Carlson.

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Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is senior editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is editor-in-chief of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
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Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
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