in that previous role. She saw something in me.” Liebermann says it’s important to prevent others from taking credit for a woman’s work at a company, a practice that has been historically pervasive. Advancement is just as important in the restaurant industry as it is in every other market. Women in leadership positions can change attitudes and norms quickly. There are ways that these leaders can push for change and shift the paradigm from within restaurant companies. Lieberman suggests the following, in her own words: • Include women in pre-meeting meetings. • Learn and use different ways to access people’s brilliance and not just one way. • Ask female leaders and everyone else what they need to achieve their full potential. • Don’t speak for all female leaders or assume you know what they think.
Women in leadership needed as restaurant industry navigates disruptive, challenging times According to Harvard Business Review, women scored better than men in 18 out of 20 capabilities. At a time when the restaurant industry needs fresh and bold thinking, strong financial results and employee retention, the evaluation of women in leadership is reassuring. Women score better in “bold leadership,” “drives for results” and “develops others.” This great aptitude can only help the restaurant industry. When women show strength, they can be perceived negatively. But when taken together, strength and empathy are skills that often form the impetus of a fast-rising female star. “Women in foodservice and many industries often face a double-edged sword,” suggests Salupo. “If they are kind and nurturing they are often not perceived as strong leaders. When they attempt to take charge, they can be viewed as aggressive or inflexible.” Inside restaurants, as in the corporate environment, women deserve the support they need to succeed, as it’s clear that a more RESTAURANT C-SUITE | Restaurant news that’s fresh, informed, inspired (by you) 16
Kat Cole, president and COO of Focus Brands, has been a restaurant industry trailblazer. Photo by Cinnabon.
inclusive workplace benefits everyone, including customers and financial stakeholders. The restaurant industry is already an extremely diverse employer, with many workers from all walks of life, yet one that can still challenge itself to do better. It is also an economic engine in the U.S., projected to add 515K jobs this summer alone, many of whom will be women. Dawn Sweeney, the president of the National Restaurant Association, is retiring after 12 years of service. During her tenure, many of the association’s management ranks have been filled by female associates, and she has increased association membership by 50 percent. At the same time, more restaurant chains are promoting women to leadership ranks. The restaurant industry can continue to push the envelope on female empowerment. This starts with an earnest effort of female executives who have risen to the highest ranks in a male-dominated world. They’ll usher in this change, not just by example, but by bringing up the next ranks of female leaders.