News | May 25, 1999

Women in Foodservice: Glass Ceiling or Salad Bar Days?

Are women fairly represented among foodservice board directors, corporate officers, and top earners? An announcement at Chicago's National Restaurant Assn. show reveals to status of women in the industry.

Women hold 8% of seats on the boards of directors of the top 100 foodservice chains, according to the Catalyst report to the Women's Foodservice Forum, "A Census of Women in Leadership in the Foodservice Industry." Conducted by the nonprofit research organization Catalyst for the Women's Foodservice Forum, this first-ever industry-specific census also finds that women make up 14% of corporate officers, but just 4% of top earners in the foodservice industry. (Click here to see related article).

According to Barbara Timm-Brock, chair and COO of Cinnabon/AFC Enterprises, "By tracking women's advancement in the industry, the Women's Foodservice Forum provides a measure for the industry to benchmark the progress, focus our leadership development resources and effect change."

The Women's Foodservice Forum, whose mission is to promote leadership development and career advancement of executive women for the benefit of the foodservice industry, released the census today at a press conference at the 80th Annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant Hotel-Motel Show.

"The census reflects that some companies are further along than others in advancing women, however many still have a ways to go," Timm-Brock said.

Of the companies with women board directors, 33 (52% of the 63 companies reporting with board data) have at least one woman director, and 13 (21%) have two or more. Four companies boast 20% or more women board directors: Viad Corp. at 25%, Consolidated Products at 22%, and Advantica Restaurant Group Inc. and Piccadilly Cafeterias Inc. at 20% each.Of the companies with women corporate officers, 48 (73% of the 67 companies reporting with corporate officer data) have at least one woman corporate officer, and 33 (50%) have multiple women corporate officers. At four companies women represent 30% or more of corporate officers: Carlson Companies, Inc. at 36%, Starbucks Corp. and Advantica Restaurant Group Inc. at 35% each, and IHOP at 30%. Carlson Companies, Inc. is the only company with more than one top earner; it has two.

This census reveals that the foodservice industry leads the Fortune 500 in terms of representation of women among corporate officers: 14% (188 of 1,297) of corporate officers are women in the foodservice industry, vs. 11% (1,234 of 11,022) in the Fortune 500, as reported by Catalyst in the "1998 Catalyst Census of Women Corporate Officers and Top Earners." Both Censuses report that women hold 4% of top-earning corporate officer positions. Catalyst gathered the information for the top 100 chains, determined by U.S. systemwide foodservice sales as listed in Nation's Restaurant News' June 22, 1998 issue, from annual reports, proxy statements, and 1OKs. Catalyst used a cutoff date of December 31, 1998.

Sheila Wellington, President of Catalyst, said, "This xensus provides a clear picture of women's status within the foodservice industry as well as a solid benchmark against which to track future progress. Catalyst and the Women's Foodservice Forum hope other industries will undertake similar measurements of women's advancement in the workforce."

"From the results of this study, foodservice companies will be able to judge themselves against their peers, and leading women in the industry may see that there is indeed a place for them at the top levels of leadership in the industry," said Timm-Brock. "The Women's Foodservice Forum believes that making change for women in the foodservice industry means measuring progress, and that the systematic tracking of women's representation in leadership positions will encourage change."

The Women's Foodservice Forum is engaged in a wide range of activities that support the career growth of women and the human resource needs for the benefit of the foodservice industry. For more information about the Women's Foodservice Forum, please visit its web site,