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A call for change in the restaurant industry

With an audience of more than 40 million and a worldwide trending hashtag on Twitter, the Academy Awards isn’t a bad place to make a statement. This year’s Hollywood-fluff-turned-politically-important moment belongs to gender equality, as the Oscar-winning best supporting actress Patricia Arquette made a passionate demand for equal rights and wage equality for women.

For fans of internet GIFs, the emphatic reactions from actresses Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez is worth searching for and watching.

Women are having a moment.

From Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In manifesto nearly two years ago to one of the best-reviewed and most-discussed Super Bowl ads this year —  “Like a girl,” from Always — the cultural conversation surrounding education, opportunity and equal pay for girls and women seems to be hitting a new high point. If we see Hillary Rodham Clinton make a presidential run next year, you can bet we’ll be talking about women an awful lot more.

For many, including myself, being a woman in the present-day U.S. isn’t terrible, and that needs to be stated clearly when there are still places on this planet where women are persecuted for how they dress and are unable to make personal choices. But as a developed, democratic nation, the U.S. should be held to a higher standard, and working women here, like Patricia Arquette, can afford to discuss wage gaps and equal opportunity — and that discussion is important.

Close to home in the foodservice industry we see that within the Nation’s Restaurant News Top 100 restaurant chains, only five women hold the title of CEO. Five.

There really is no excuse for such a low percentage of top female executives at the largest companies, especially when women make up the majority of hourly workers in foodservice and about 30 percent of general managers, according to data from TDn2K and the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance. There is simply no lack of talent from which to recruit and develop — and the thousands of attendees at this month’s Women’s Foodservice Forum Annual Leadership Development Conference is a good place to start.

For 25 years, the WFF has been advocating for the advancement of women leaders and the development of corporate practices to build diverse executive teams. In 2015, WFF finds itself with new leadership in president and CEO Hattie Hill and chair Kat Cole of Focus Brands Inc. Having the opportunity to speak at length with both of these women, it is clear the organization is looking to celebrate its 25-year history, and begin to build new avenues for progress in the next 25 years. Cole’s notion of “democratizing access” to the tools and connections of the WFF could not be more needed and on point in today’s business world, especially with today’s younger generation of women. Hear more from Cole in this interview, which was conducted as a part of our special feature on the WFF’s anniversary and this year’s WFF award winners.

NRN has always been a strong partner of the WFF, and we continue to provide our support to the advancement of women leaders in foodservice.

Diversity and equal opportunity matter. Your employees care and your customers care, which means your business should care, too.

Sarah E. Lockyer, Editor-in-Chief
e-mail: [email protected]
Twitter: @slockyerNRN

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