I Said “No” to Joining a Women’s Group
By Susan Adzick, President, McLane Foodservice Inc. and Chair, National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF)
Several years ago, my supervisor approached me and asked if I might join the Dallas Chamber of Commerce’s new Executive Women’s Roundtable. Just getting started, it was a group intended to bring more women into the Chamber and give female leaders a chance to network with each other.
My answer was an emphatic – No!
I saw myself as an executive, not a female executive. Why would I need to highlight that about myself, especially since at the time, I worked in the predominantly male fields of engineering and chemical manufacturing. I saw no upsides.
My supervisor rephrased the question: “Susan, I’d like you to join.”
Looking back, I can say that act of mandatory volunteerism had the most profound effect on my career. Joining other women to network, share advice, bounce ideas off one another and, even, relax, allowed me to flourish professionally beyond what I had ever envisioned. I made lifelong friends and learned a valuable life lesson: There is tremendous value in leaning what others have endured along with their professional and personal challenges. We do not need to reinvent our own wheel. We can learn and take inspiration from each other.
This important life lesson comes to me as we celebrate Women’s History Month – a time to think about how women have created their own successes and paved the way for others throughout history. As I take on my new responsibilities, currently the role of Chair of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s Board of Trustees, I aspire to join that long line of women and organizations dedicated to helping open doors of opportunity to people from all backgrounds.
While the pandemic has caused historic pain for restaurants, foodservice and hospitality businesses across the country, it has raised the public consciousness for just how important this industry is to the health and well-being of our society. What we do now will affect the fate of the industry, and the lives of millions of people who are eager to get back to work and back on their feet.
Women from all backgrounds represent 56 percent of our industry’s workforce (vs. 47 percent in the overall economy), and 61 percent of all adult women have worked in our industry at some point during their lives*. As we begin to rebuild, women are, and will continue to play a leading role in championing our diverse industry that is open to everyone. But, there is always room for improvement and new ideas.
Women networking groups, both large and small are a great place to start and can help identify gaps, be thought starters for innovative solutions and launch pads for improvement and change. It is where we can talk about leadership roles for women, how to make an impact and creating opportunities for the next generation. It is where statements like, “why not now?”, “let me help” and “we can make a difference” are welcomed.
The group you may join does not always need to be gender specific – in fact; we know that gender parity can only be achieved when all voices are at the table. However, choose your circles of support wisely.
First, make sure it is a safe space. We all need room to grow our confidence and explore our aspirations, without fear of professional or personal repercussions.
Second, make sure the group brings together people with different stories who are willing to share them. We all need exposure to diverse thinking and multiple pathways to success.
Third, do not give up. Even if your first instinct is to say no, that is not for me. Be open to the possibility that we may have more to learn from each other than we think and together we can shape a future that benefits everyone. Most of all be thankful for the many courageous women over time who broke new ground and set the bar high for us all.
*Source: National Restaurant Association – 2021
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