Accelerating the Advancement of Women Leaders 


March 26, 2018

Food Industry CEOs and senior leaders explored the 2017 Women in the Workplace Study findings and strategized together about the most effective ways to close the gender equity gap during the 2018 WFF Annual Leadership Development Conference earlier this month.

The 32 convening companies that stepped up first in the food industry to participate in the Women in the Workplace Study were honored as LEAD THE WAY Pioneers. More than 60 companies have registered for the 2018 Study.

“We have the opportunity to make a larger scale impact by joining forces with other industry leaders so I’m honored to join with WFF to LEAD THE WAY to gender equity,” said CEO & President of Brinker International Wyman Roberts.

“We believe a gender diverse workforce can drive differentiated performance,” said CEO of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews Denny Marie Post.  “We need the full power of talent available to us to navigate what’s ahead.”

“At Coca-Cola we know the success of our business depends on having gender diversity and talented women across our organization, especially at the most senior levels,” said President of Coca-Cola North America Jim Dinkins. “It’s why we’ve increased representation of women in our mid-level pipeline to 45% and why we are strategically focused on hiring talented women for all kinds of positions and career paths. Coca-Cola is honored to help make gender equity a reality in the food industry.”

McKinsey & Company has found that top performing companies with regard to gender diversity experience 5X faster promotion of women, 2X more women in VP, SVP and C-Suite roles, 80% more women managers and a 15% higher rate of men committed to gender equity.


Making gender equity personal

“At Jamba, it was really important that we participate in the Women in the Workplace Study,” said President & CEO of Jamba Juice David Pace. “While we think we do a lot of things well, we saw it as an opportunity to do as much learning as we could. If we’re going to be on this journey together and we’re going to lead as an industry, and as an industry we’re going to lead other industries, it’s important for all of us that we continue to learn how to be better every day. For me personally, gender equity is just a common-sense approach to winning the war for talent,” Pace said.

The McKinsey team advocates the following steps for companies ready to take their gender equity efforts to the next level.

  1. Make a compelling case internally for how gender equity drives better business performance. Research shows that the better employees understand the business case for gender equity, the more committed to it they become.
  2. Commit to employee training, especially around unconscious bias. You cannot eliminate unconscious bias, but it is critical to help people develop the ability to recognize unconscious bias in themselves, in others and in company policies and practices so they can be addressed and mitigated.
  3. Help managers drive change. When managers see the commitment of the CEO and senior leadership, they understand that advancing gender equity is a top priority. They need to be empowered and held accountable for mentoring female staff members and helping them access high-profile and stretch assignments that will position them for greater advancement.
  4. Ensure fair hiring, promotion and review practices. It sounds obvious but that doesn’t mean it always happens. Less than one-third of companies demand a diverse slate of candidates to be considered for a position, effectively shutting down the diversity process before it has begun. An external, objective observer can be especially helpful in evaluating current practices for inherent and unintended bias.
  5. Create work/life flexibility that supports the realities faced by caregivers at all phases of life and enables employees to meet personal and family obligations and recharge away from work.
  6. Provide accountability for results. Although companies may track aggregate gender equity data, very few track hiring and promotion throughout their pipeline. Only 23% even share their gender equity data with managers and a scant 8% share the data with all team members.

To learn more about participating in the Women in the Workplace Study, please contact WFF Vice President for Human Resources and Organizational Development, Tim Johnson at

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