Quick — a cushion for my … feet!
Some of my most thought-provoking conversations happen in cabs. On our way from the MGM in Vegas to the airport, Publisher Mary Jo Larson and I had just settled into the back seat when the driver asked why we were in town. When we explained that we had just attended the Women’s Foodservice Forum conference, he asked what the group’s purpose was. “Elevating women to leadership positions in the foodservice industry,” Mary Jo answered. The man shook his head and laughed. “What, you can’t just let the best man for the job get it?” he replied. We explained that the organization wasn’t affirmative action-based, it provided women with the skills and mind-set necessary to move up in the foodservice industry.
Our driver snorted. “You can’t put a cushion under every ass,” he replied. “Excuse me?” Mary Jo asked, thinking she had heard wrong.
I was enthralled, not only with the wonderful visual his comment supplied, but also by the symbolism. (As an English major, I see symbolism, not dead people, everywhere.)
He had escaped the Soviet Union where the government took care of your health care and gave you free bread — albeit in long lines. But this treatment also took away your individuality, and your cash. Russia had become an almost cashless society when he left, he said. There was no need to be entrepreneurial, little need to succeed. “Why should a doctor be paid the same as a cab driver?” he asked, turning around halfway in his seat. “He has many more years of schooling.” (Sure, but when you need to catch an early flight, who’s going to make that house call?)
Unfortunately, it’s a short cab ride, so he wasn’t able to complete our education in Communism. How come the interesting drivers come along on short rides, and the long rides result in drivers who spend all their time on the phone talking in a language you can’t even eavesdrop in on?
While things haven’t become cushy for women, there has been some positive change for females in foodservice in the last decade. The head of the National Restaurant Association is a woman, Dawn Sweeney, who is both articulate and talented in getting the industry’s message out when and where it counts. The president of McDonald’s USA, the largest and most well-known fast-food chain in America, plus its general counsel, are both women. No small step for womankind considering when McDonald’s first raised its golden arches, women weren’t allowed to work in the restaurants.
But only 15 percent of women on Fortune 500 board are women. You don’t have to be good at math like me to realize that means, 75 — no, 85 percent — are not women.
I don’t know why Communist men assume women aren’t willing to do the hard work required to sit in the leader’s chair. We don’t need a cushion. But we do need the support and skill-building expertise of organizations like WFF. There’s a new leader at the helm of WFF, Fritzi Woods, who is routinely named as one of the most admired and respected women in foodservice. So we can expect even bigger things in the future from the association.
But I think women have missed our true calling. What we really need is the Women’s Taxi-drivers Forum. We need to work on getting more women in the driver’s seat. Taxi drivers can be wonderful pundits. They touch the lives of thousands of passengers every day; and they offer insights and opinions on every topic known to humankind. They are change agents. It’s too late for my daughters, they have careers they like, but I’m going to advocate for my granddaughter to have a cushion under her bottom when she drives America to its destination. You go, Emerson.
By the time you read this, hopefully, I will no longer be in the process of hiring an additional writer/editor. I am not good at this. I tend to like everyone who applies and some I fall in love with. The trouble is that in every young person I interview, I see my son standing in front of me — if it’s a woman, I see my daughters. And if it’s someone bossy and overbearing, I see my dog, Hank, who now that he’s a single dog, bosses me around unmercifully. I’m tired of going to bed at 10 p.m. because he’s ready.
For anyone else out there in the same boat, I thought I would offer a couple of insights into hiring employees, for the applicants:
Nancy can be reached at 612-767-3200 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
- When answering an ad requesting a resume and three writing samples, don’t respond with an e-mail stating: “I don’t do resume’s (sic).” If you’re too experienced to stoop to sending a resume like the peasants, at least punctuate the word correctly.
OK, so I have only one insight.
I’m not alone in my qwest. I recently visited Amy Cheng of Cheng Cohen in Chicago and we commiserated about the hiring process since she also is looking for someone to join her team. Amy and her partner Ric Cohen were overlooked as the subject of a recent article on their law firm in favor of their dog, Scout, and Amy said they’re now known as the dog law firm. No one fails to mention how much they like dogs when they interview.
I always hesitate to ask candidates to take a writing and editing test, but Amy said they require a writing test as well. Lawyers need to think logically and be able to anticipate the ramifications of each and every decision they make, plus be able to put those thoughts into clear writing. (I could have been a lawyer! Now I find out.)
Amy’s test is to write a legal document for a client based on a set of prepared facts for ... a doggy day-care franchise. Probably based on the one Scout attends.
Amy thought she was going to find out something about the prospects’ skill, but instead discovered their dark side. The candidate who wanted franchisees to muzzle the dogs before allowing them into the group play area didn’t get the job. “Muzzles at a day care?” she asked, incredulously. Had it been my non-resume-sending candidate, I would have sicced Scout on him. Poetic justice.