Decade of Women?


One entrepreneur is predicting that the tide could turn in a big way for females in foodservice.

One entrepreneur is predicting that the tide could turn in a big way for females in foodservice.

The next 10 years or so is going to be the “Decade of Women.” Sound unlikely? Well that’s the unsolicited opinion of a highly successful foodservice entrepreneur, a male entrepreneur I might add.

Taking an expansive worldview, this gentleman thinks “men have so screwed things up” that the tide of power is going to turn, and turn quickly, he says. That’s an interesting prediction, especially given this professional’s track record of seeing into the future.

As a female it’s hard to be objective on this subject, so I won’t even try. I can’t deny that his words brought a smile to my face. His comments brought to mind all the bright, capable and committed women I know in foodservice.

And as the entrepreneur with the crystal ball that’s flashing female says, “Most of the women will be strong back-to-basics advocates, believers in strong work ethics, few excuses, and no jobs half done.”

Don’t get me wrong: There are legions of men in the restaurant industry whose vision, competency and hospitality are head-spinning.

But for too long the executive ranks of the industry have been heavily weighted with men, while women have accounted for more than 50 percent of its workforce. That’s an inequity the Women’s Foodservice Forum is aiming to correct with help from the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance. More commonly referred to by their abbreviations, WFF and MFHA, these not-for-profit organizations have been feeling the recessionary pinch much like every other foodservice entity.

Founded in 1988, the Dallas-based Women’s Foodservice Forum is dedicated to elevating women leaders in the foodservice industry. This organization bridges operators, suppliers and distributors, and boasts a community that is more than 5,000 strong.  Many of the industry’s most respected female leaders, many of them pioneers to boot, have put their mark on this organization.

The MFHA, which is the industry’s leading proponent of inclusion and diversity, often finds its mission has crossover applications.

While women clearly rank light-years behind their male counterparts when it comes to positions of responsibility, there does seem to be growing momentum.

There now are several women at the top of restaurant companies. Julia Stewart, Hala Moddelmog, Linda Lang, Cheryl Bachelder, Sally Smith, Linda Bacin, Liz Smith, Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Edna Morris, Carin Stutz, Lorna Donatone, Leslie Christon, Lynette McKee, Valerie Insignares, Sue Morelli, Peggy Cherng, Laurie Burns, Van Eure, Lidia Bastianich and Jean Birch are a few that come to mind. But that’s not nearly enough, especially given the reputations for excellence many of these women are amassing.

The WFF’s goal is to achieve gender parity on senior team and boards by 2020. In 1988 that must have seemed unachievable and even today seems a remote possibility.

But 2020 is nine years away, and if this next decade is truly going to be the “Decade of Women,” then just maybe that goal isn’t so unattainable after all.

Or as former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin often replies when asked if women are capable of taking on more and more responsibilities, “You betcha!”


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