International Women’s Day – celebrated annually on March 8 – is a day that commemorates the social, political and economic achievements of women. This year’s campaign, #BreakTheBias, is a chance to reflect on gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow within the foodservice industry.

The Higher, The Fewer.

According to Shannon Finn Connell for Forbesthe restaurant industry is often considered to be one of the most diverse segments of our economy. However, upon closer analysis, like countless other industries, the foodservice industry continues to remain an example of ‘the higher the fewer’.

In other words, there is a gender and diversity gap within high level positions; while entry-level positions are held by diverse individuals, senior-level positions are not.

In an industry that’s infamous for its long hours and aggressive tactics, leadership roles for women have traditionally been rare – an undeniable result of the false, unfounded stereotypes and embedded biases regarding women’s work ethic.

According to the most recent State of Restaurant Workers report, while women make up 54% of restaurant workers, there is a fractional number of women and people of color in higher level positions within the restaurant industry. This gap is also evident on the distribution side of foodservice, where top executive positions remain predominantly held by white males.

Ultimately, only one in five foodservice industry executives are women – around 20% representation at the c-suite level.

But change is on the horizon.

Over the past few years, the restaurant industry has seen many successful women break through the glass ceiling. The 2021 Power List Report by NRN indicates the percentage of women in high-level leadership positions is growing across the foodservice industry globally. And about one-third of U.S. restaurant businesses are majority-owned by women as reported by the National Restaurant Association.

Today and every day, it’s important to raise awareness of these gender disparities within the industry, and also to celebrate the achievements of women everywhere. So in honour of International Women’s Day, we asked female leaders in the restaurant industry;

What does being a female leader in the restaurant industry mean to you?

Read on to discover these women’s anecdotes, expert advice and what their role means to them.

Lisa Labute, Chef & Owner of The Goods

“As the female leader of a female run restaurant, I’ve always felt we have a responsibility to lead by example.

The decisions we make for the business are a direct reflection of what we want to see more of in the world. Nourishing foods, sustainability, accessibility and community are our driving passions.”

Janet Zuccarini, CEO & Founder of Gusto 54 Restaurant Group

“Male, female, it doesn’t matter – we’re all just humans here. If someone else in the world can succeed, why can’t I? All it takes is a big dream, and the grit, hard work, and passion for making it a reality.

But advice specific to hospitality? You better want it and want it bad. This business isn’t an easy one, and you have to be prepared for things to go wrong.

At the end of the day, if things go sideways, it’s going to be your passion for what you do that will give you the confidence to get back up and make it work.”

Rachel Fischer, Customer Success Manager at notch (Previous GM for Mexican Sugar & Up on Knox)

“You could be the best GM in the world but if you didn’t have team members or peers who respected and wanted to learn from you, it would be difficult to move forward.

As a young female GM, I approached everyday with ‘respect is earned, not given.’ My team’s support is what always motivated me to be better.

As a female, our passion for the industry and work ethic is always a surprise to our team members, peers, leaders, etc.
While many may take that as an opportunity to be offended, I took it as a chance to impress! I always got a thrill out of it!

Looking back, it was so powerful that my mentors and leaders during that time really allowed me to experience a lot of different successes and failures. There are very few things in this industry you can’t fix and make right so take the risk and you may win or you may lose but either way, you will experience it and learn from it.”

Sofia Mammoliti, Project Coordinator for PORTA

“Being a female leader in the restaurant industry is a rewarding experience. It has given me the opportunity to work alongside several individuals that come from different backgrounds to create success over our shared passion for food!”

Kate Hancock, Owner Operator of Hugs & Sarcasm

“Being a female leader in this industry has given me a chance to break some of the old stereotypes of working in what used to be a male dominated industry and creating an environment that is enjoyable and promotes inclusivity for both staff and customers alike.”

Thank you to these amazing industry leaders for sharing their reflections with notch, to help us all celebrate International Women’s Day.

As we look forward, we can expect that the existing diversity within the restaurant and foodservice industry will continue to create opportunities for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to be elevated through new leadership.

Look out for these women and plenty more as they continue to thrive in 2022!