Where are all the women?


Recently I had the pleasure to attend Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 luncheon at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Recently I had the pleasure to attend Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 luncheon at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Organized by the Woman’s Executive Network, WXN, the luncheon attracted upwards of 500 of the country’s most influential women.  

As a female it was gratifying to be sitting in a room full of powerful women executives representing every facet of business life – from engineers to doctors to bankers. It was heartening to see the depth and scope of women in business and to take note of the strides being made by so many women in so many different sectors – working tirelessly, mentoring others and blazing new trails.  

As Pamela Jeffrey, founder and organizer of the event, said in her opening address, a mere four decades ago, very few women worked outside the home. Today, very few women don’t work. Clearly, we’ve made great strides. And as strident multi-taskers, there are few of us who don’t juggle a million different responsibilities and attempt to do it all.

But as a woman covering the hospitality industry, and leading a publishing company, it was somewhat disappointing to see only two women from the restaurant and hotel sectors recognized. While it’s wonderful to see the progress of women over the past four decades, it’s also clearly evident the foodservice and hospitality industry has a long way to go to improve its commitment to the advancement of women in the workplace.  

Of the 100 women that received distinction, only two came from the restaurant and hotel industries. Nancy Adamo, president and owner of Hockley Valley, and Cynthia Devine, executive vice-president and CFO of Tim Hortons were the only two women recognized from the industry. Two other women, Cora Tsouflidou, president of Chez Cora, and Becky McKinnon, president of Timothy’s are part of the group’s Hall of Fame (honourees are women who have won a Top 100 Award three times). Now, one could overlook having only two women recognized if women were swelling the corporate ranks of this industry but clearly they’re not. In fact, of the Top 100 foodservice and hospitality chains in the industry, only two quickly come to mind: Katie Taylor, president and COO of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Becky McKinnon, president of Timothy’s Coffees.   

So why is it that an industry as welcoming as hospitality fails to put women in the executive suite? Is the industry doing all it can to foster the growth of women executives? Is it removing barriers that exist? Does the industry fully promote training and development of female executives? Is it conducive, and realistic for women to lead the charge in hospitality? Do companies have the right type of mentorship programs to help women deal with the myriad responsibilities that come with the territory? Are there enough networking programs for women to join? Is the industry making it as attractive as possible for women to lead rather than follow?




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