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Therese Gearhart, president and CEO of the Women's Foodservice Forum, speaks with Nation's Restaurant News about the upcoming conference and the state of women in the restaurant industry.

Women’s Foodservice Forum president and CEO Therese Gearhart on how women leaders have been adversely affected by the pandemic

Gearhart also touches on the challenges of creating a hybrid virtual-in-person event for the WFF leadership conference in March

In the age of COVID-19, the annual Women’s Foodservice Forum leadership conference is adapting to pandemic-era restrictions with a hybrid in-person and virtual event from March 21-24 at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Dallas. WFF president and CEO Therese Gearhart discussed with NRN how this turn of events presents its own difficulties and opportunities — like expanding participation to women around the world who would not otherwise be able to attend — and also reflects the challenges women leaders in the foodservice industry have faced over the past 11 months.

“As exciting as it is, you’re still hosting two great events,” Gearhart said. “Being able to make sure our attendees [can get the most out of] a virtual format, […] and we’re still hosting a live event, so you need to have all your normal high-quality guidance and visuals so it’s a fantastic live experience as well as virtual.”

During next month’s event, some of the topics of interest from both keynote speakers and breakout sessions will undoubtably include the unique hurdles women have faced in balancing family needs and work during a global pandemic.

“We know it’s been especially hard coming through this pandemic on working moms, senior women and women of color,” Gearhart said. “We have flagged a risk of women potentially stepping out of the workforce due to the balance of trying to manage everything during the pandemic, so we’re hoping to be there to continue to share with them inspiration and give them the tools to help them learn how to thrive as they remain remote.”

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