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Workshop tackles gender equity in the food industry

Kyle S. Mackie

It’s going to take 100 years at the current pace to achieve gender equity among the highest executives in the food industry. That was the premise of a leadership development workshop that took place Tuesday at Rich Products in Buffalo. The workshop, titled "Elevate Your Game," was co-hosted by Rich Products and the Women’s Foodservice Forum. It featured more than 200 attendees representing 35 companies from across Western New York and Toronto.

Jamie McKeon, senior vice president of demand creation at Rich’s, said her company is committed to developing a diverse leadership pipeline, including women.

"We know that organizations that are more diverse and more innovative...are more successful. They have better business results, and it's simply just the right thing to do," McKeon said.

Far fewer women hold high-level executive positions than men in industries across the economy, including the food business. Kathryn Lyons, WFF’s chief growth officer, said that inequality begins early in a professional's career.

Credit Kyle S. Mackie / WBFO News
Representatives from 35 Western New York and Toronto companies attended Tuesday's workshop.

"Women are not getting that first promotion. Everybody's entering at the same pace and that first promotion traditionally goes to a man," Lyons said.

Lyons said research disproves many common theories about why women are not advancing to the highest ranks of leadership at the same rate as men, including the notion that women would rather focus on their families than their careers.

"Actually, women and men are leaving at the same rate. Only 2% are going to stay home and focus on their family. The other theory might be they might not want to advance as fast. They're at a different point in their lives and so they're not interested in motivation. I don't know about you, but every woman I know is ambitious and wants to advance in her career," she added.

Some of the topics the leadership development workshop focused on included elevating personal brand, resilience and networking.