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Women in Foodservice
McDonalds_Global_Town_Hall_May_2024_0071.jpg Photo courtesy of McDonald's
Skye Anderson speaks to an audience at a recent McDonald's Global Town Hall meeting.

McDonald’s Skye Anderson’s career advice to aspiring women

Anderson has been with McDonald’s for 24 years and joined the Women’s Foodservice Forum board last year.

Skye Anderson has been with McDonald’s for 24 years, starting in an entry-level finance position in Australia. She worked her way up, eventually serving as CFO in that market, before moving to the U.S. market for an operations opportunity.

She is now president of Global Business Services, a fledgling division created last year to break down silos across the company’s massive global system. She is one of six women on McDonald’s leadership team and has been heavily involved in the company’s Global Women’s Leadership Network for years. Last year, she also joined the Women’s Foodservice Forum board, a move she thought was important to support both her personal goals and McDonald’s broader goal of reaching gender parity in senior director-and-above roles by 2030.

“There are public commitments that we’re making ourselves accountable to, but with WFF, it’s beyond just trying to achieve a metric,” she said during a recent interview. “It provides learnings on how to build your career in a meaningful way that women leaders can take back and integrate internally. It’s a top-down and bottom-up approach and making sure we’re seeing talent early and giving them what they need.”

Recognizing talent early is a key piece for McDonald’s to achieve its goals as it tries to provide a solution to the “broken rung” barrier that women and other underrepresented groups face when trying to advance their careers. According to McKinsey’s 2023 Women in the Workplace report, for every 100 men promoted from entry-level roles to manager roles, just 87 women are offered the same opportunity, for instance.

“Understanding where women are finding challenges and then, as leaders, how do we create the right pathways for them to be able to overcome them is important,” Anderson said. In a post-pandemic world, she adds, one of those pathways is flexibility, particularly for caregivers.

“If companies can get that right and provide what individuals need, they’re the ones that win at the end of the day and attract great women talent,” she said.

Another successful tactic McDonald’s has found success with is its mentoring circles, where female leaders host small groups that get together regularly and talk about issues that are affecting them. Anderson said these circles provide a space that is safe and confidential.

“It provides genuine support in a fairly intimate setting for women to bring up issues they’re struggling with, like having another child, returning to work, managing having to leave a meeting to pump milk,” she said. “It’s sometimes nice to be able to have a place to go to talk about those things that feel a little personal in a professional setting.”

The mentoring circles have provided a source of understanding for leaders on how to provide a better working environment, she said, adding that all of this work is creating more opportunities for career progression, which ultimately benefits the company overall.

“There is a tremendous amount of data that speaks to the value of diverse teams and environments and how a business performance correlates with that,” she said. “We know when you sit in a room with a truly diverse team, you get richer conversations, great debates and you end up with some wonderful decisions by having the right people at the table.”

As an executive at the largest restaurant company by sales in the country, Anderson is a bit of an anomaly. In fact, a recent report by S&P Global Market Intelligence revealed that the growth in women’s representation among all senior leadership positions in the U.S. dropped to the lowest rate in more than a decade. Such a trend can be demoralizing, but Anderson said it’s important for aspiring women to make sure they find a company that aligns with their values and provides support.

“Beyond that, build relationships with leaders and bosses and make sure they understand your priorities and you understand their priorities. If you’re not getting that support, you’ve got to reassess,” she said. “Create the right work environment for yourself and then surround yourself with a great team. All those things ladder up to creating a place where you can drive your own success and reach your potential.”

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

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