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On the Menu: `Bold Goals' for Women in Food Service



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Women who want to move up the corporate ladder have to have an appetite for influencing corporate strategy in order to make it happen.

And the members of the Women's Foodservice Forum have a big appetite: According to Alice Wheelwright, chair of the international forum, which is headquartered in Chicago, the group's nearly 2,200 members from all segments of the industry have set what she calls "bold goals" for the food-service and hospitality industry.

Their aim: to place more women in top jobs throughout the industry.

The two essential goals, as defined by the forum, are food for thought because they are such recipes for success.

The first bold goal is "three at the table." According to Wheelwright, vice president of industry marketing at Ecolab Inc. in St. Paul, Minn., this goal means that "at least three women should be on every senior management team within five years."

The second is called "20/20 vision." This one sets 2020 as the target for when "women should comprise 50 percent of every executive team and board" in the industry.

According to the forum, food service is a $476 billion industry and employs 12.2 million people. Many of them are women.

And hard-working women should have a seat at the power table, the same as hard-working men.

Home work: "Some 1.4 million children are cared for by family child-care providers, who supply relatively low-cost, accessible and flexible child care," said Barbara Gault, director of research at the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington.

Gault also is one of the authors of the institute's new report, "In Our Own Backyards: Local and State Strategies to Improve the Quality of Family Child Care."

In it, a family child-care provider is defined as someone "who cares for two or more unrelated children in the provider's own home."

Despite the critical work these child-care workers do, despite the service they provide working parents and their children, the report shows that they "face isolation, low earnings and a lack of access to training."

Based on its research, the institute's report suggests several remedies for improving the quality of this vital support service.

Among them are "home visits, accreditation programs, family child-care networks, tiered reimbursement systems and training scholarships."

In addition, there's a strong recommendation that providers should be encouraged to become licensed, because having a license is "positively related to quality of care."

For a copy of the report, call the institute at 202-785-5100. Or access its Web site at www.iwpr.org.

Minority report: Though the word "diversity" seems to be on many corporate lips these days, the reality is that a majority of firms have no minorities or women in top positions.

According to a survey of 571 senior executives by the Association of Executive Search Consultants, based in New York, 87 percent reported that "their company has either one or no women or minorities among the company's top five executives."

Surprisingly, in a separate poll of 530 senior executives, 59 percent said their firms have official diversity policies - which seems to me are not working.

At least not very hard.

What they really want: "Even though much has been made about our generation expecting and wanting to have it all,' women today are redefining whatall' means," says Wendy Sachs, author of "How She Really Does It: Secrets of Successful Stay-at-Work Moms" (LifeLong, $19.95).

"Definitions of success have more to do with job satisfaction and flexibility than with prestige and position. ... We want flextime, part-time and job-share to be viewed not as a privilege but as an integral part of the work culture."

And Sachs, a freelance television producer, adds: "We want the freedom to amp up when we are ready and to cut back if we need to slow things down."

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(Carol Kleiman is the workplace columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Send e-mail to ckleiman@tribune.com.)

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(c) 2005, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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