Angela Dodd.
Females in Food Community

"We’ve focused on women in F&B, but that doesn’t mean we have less of a problem when it comes to other forms of diversity," Dodd says.

Why the Future of Food is Female

With F&B lagging behind in gender parity, Females in Food seeks to balance the scales.

Even before the pandemic led to a mass exodus of women from the workplace, most industries (including food and beverage) struggled with gender parity, especially in leadership. And so a few years ago, Angela Dodd, who has spent her career in the ingredient segment, decided to do something about it.

Founded in 2019, Females in Food is a professional network, talent marketplace, and data-driven platform that works to advance women within F&B. It does so by building community connections, sharing data insights, hosting webinars, funding scholarships, and more. Recently the organization added a corporate partnership arm wherein companies can share information about themselves and their diversity initiatives with the Females in Food community.

The organization is still in its early years, and Dodd says it has even more in store for the future. 

What inspired you to start Females in Food?

My whole career has been in F&B. There wasn’t a moment or a switch that made me decide to start Females in Food; it was more an accumulation of over a decade’s worth of experiences. I’ve had situations across the board that were wonderful and others that weren’t the best representation of our industry; they were opportunities for change. The other piece of this was women coming to me asking for coaching, navigating the political ladder, negotiating for that next big raise, knowing your worth, and moving into a different segment. I realized there was a much bigger need to connect across segments, whether it’s CPG, retail, foodservice, or B2B. 

How are you approaching the challenge of achieving gender equity?

As a platform, we’ve really taken a 360-degree approach. Women are represented in only 16 percent of senior executive positions across F&B, and through the pandemic, we see women leaving the workforce at a greater rate than ever before. 

Success looks different to every woman, and sometimes it’s just having somebody open a door or make an introduction. If you’re working in a role in which you may be the only woman in the room, having this trusted community to go to, to have those resources and individuals in your circle and rooting for you is key for a successful career. 

Ultimately, as an industry, how do we change from an organizational perspective? Females in Food can’t make policy; companies are going to make the decisions. But we can provide the insights and the partnerships; we can advance things that help move the needle for women. If this were an easy solution, we would already be at parity. 

How is Females in Food structured?

We have two different membership levels: a collective and a community. The collective is a free membership in which individuals can sign up and gain access to our monthly newsletter and different resources. There are also opportunities to join industry-wide networking events and stay apprised of job postings. 

The community is our paid membership in which women receive access to a private communication channel with weekly learning and development resources, industry-topic webinars, professional development webinars, in-person events, and networking events. We also have a job search accelerator. It’s a series of videos and a robust digital workbook that walks people through how to go about a search, from negotiating and networking to interviewing and positioning themselves with their personal brand or on LinkedIn. 

You recently introduced a corporate dimension?

Over the past two years, we’ve done a lot of outreach within our community to gain data and insights to help the industry as a whole move forward. Recently, we decided to formalize this into a corporate gender diversity partnership in which organizations are able to have a branded employer profile to reach a broader audience and say why they’re a great place for women in F&B to work. One thing we are finding is that organizations were doing great things to attract and retain female talent, but a lot of women didn’t know about it. 

Beyond gender, how do other forms of diversity come into play?

We’ve focused on women in F&B, but that doesn’t mean we have less of a problem when it comes to other forms of diversity. And it’s important to understand that women of color have different experiences within the workplace. 

We’ve partnered with one of the career coaches in our community to sponsor two scholarships for the Magnolia Leadership Program for Black Women. In addition to a $6,500 scholarship, the women receive the most incredible experience with professional development and also mentorship with Black leaders. Our goal is to create programs like this specifically within F&B. 

What’s next for Females in Food?

There’s no shortage of ideas or opportunities to go after. One of the future things on the horizon: We have a lot of female founders and small business owners. They’ve already found ways to support each other within our community, but we can do even better. Some of that is going to be making it easier for them to connect with subject-matter experts. We also want to amplify those small business owners’ voices, so more organizations know they’re out there.