Today is International Women’s Day, a global holiday for the women’s rights movement, bringing attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence and abuse against women. But more than that, it is a day to uplift and celebrate women, their accomplishments, and capabilities, while striving for equality in the workplace.
It begs the question that Nation’s Restaurant News dared to ask: Why Aren’t More Women in Leadership? “Several major restaurant companies have vowed to achieve gender pay and representational parity,” writes NRN. “And while much progress has been made, some challenges remain in the way of full gender equality.”
The disparity in food service leadership sparked the advent of the Women’s Food Service Forum, which has “has developed monthly, hybrid, on-demand programming on topics that support women’s ongoing development,” and includes annual conferences led by top female industry leaders. You can learn more about the Women’s Food Service Forum here.
To weigh in on the conversation, NRN Executive Editor Alicia Kelso discusses the history of women in food service leadership on the podcast “First Bite,” which you can listen to here. The February print issue of NRN will look more closely at the gender inequality in the restaurant industry.
“Companies have been coming up with pledges for five years now, since about 2018,” says Kelso, “But this is a multi-layered topic that we are just starting to look at. And I can say, when we started talking to executives about how they were breaking down barriers…women want to talk about this, and they want to do something about it.” It is a conversation worth having since, despite these promises made a few years back, only 38% of restaurant leadership is female compared to 65% female workers on the frontline.
Of course, the pandemic has a lot to do with the pause in progress as, historically, women are default caretakers. “Women have left, not only the restaurant industry, but the workforce in droves since the pandemic,” Kelso says. Many of these women are mothers in need of childcare, but there are also many Gen X and Millennial workers who are now caring for aging parents as well. “The restaurant industry can be inflexible—no work from home opportunities, no calling in when running late or for an appointment.”
While there are some industry leaders making strides, especially younger brands like Shake Shack and Noodles & Company, the gap persists, and the issue is multifaceted. “It’s a complicated issue,” Kelso agrees. “It’s a hard industry when you’re a caretaker.”
There is no obvious or one-size-fits-all solution for the gender gaps that persist in the restaurant industry, but an awareness and a willingness to level the playing field is a start. Restaurants need to listen to their employees and assess biases that may exist within their staffing framework to avoid creating gender inequality in the workplace, and, if possible, to provide more flexible avenues for those team members who may also have large caretaking responsibilities outside of the workplace.
“National Restaurant Consultants supports and applauds the celebration of International Women’s day, and we recognize the continued need to advance women executives within the foodservice and hospitality industry,” notes Richard Weil, principal and owner of National Restaurant Consultants.
While there is no one solution, our team of restaurant consultants are experts in staffing. We can mediate between management and team members and help facilitate productive conversations so that your restaurant is well-staffed with happy employees.