In the annals of history, 2017 will undoubtedly go down as a watershed year for women’s issues. The alleged sexual transgressions of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein fuelled a maelstrom of controversy and commentary, all the while sparking myriad changes across many industries. Who could have predicted that #MeToo would give rise to female solidarity around the world and provide the impetus for change by giving women the needed strength, conviction and courage to make their voices heard and, more importantly, believed. More than any other movement in recent years, #MeToo has finally given credence to what women have been forced to deal with for centuries. And, as many in this business know, sexual harassment has percolated in the foodservice and hospitality industry for way too long. And let’s be clear — the all-too familiar “casting couch” isn’t relegated only to Hollywood; it’s been a fixture of the male-dominated restaurant business for longer than we’d like to admit. Add to that, the manner in which women are treated, the gender imbalance that exists in management roles and the pay inequity that is so flagrant and you have a strong recipe for dissension.
But it’s a new day and a new year — women are now empowered. Whether that will mean wholesale changes for the foodservice and hospitality industry remains to be seen, but, clearly, change is on the menu — and hopefully the momentum will intensify. Late last year, as the industry was readying itself for the busy holiday season, the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association, in collaboration with Tourism HR and the Ontario Tourism Education Council, launched a new training program called “It’s Your Shift.” The sexual violence and intervention training program will help managers and front-line workers identify and intervene in instances of sexual violence and harassment among employees and patrons. It’s Your Shift is available in five online modules, in addition to providing job aids and links to resources, and is complimentary.
While the topic of sexual harassment is clearly a lightning rod, it’s also part of a bigger issue that needs to be better addressed in this industry — mental health. At a time when so much attention is being placed on wellness, it’s heartening to see growing dialogue in the industry about important issues such as employee stress levels, long hours, living wages, pay inequity and more. On that note, I’m proud to announce that F&H will be shining the light on health and wellness for the entire year through the introduction of a new column called The Healthy Workplace. The bi-monthly column will take a look at a host of issues, beginning this month with sexual harassment (see story on page 63), and follow with other topics such as mental health, living wages and more. Because, at the end of the day, shouldn’t every employee have the right to a safe and healthy workplace?