Serving Up Development for Women in Foodservice

A September “Women in the Workplace” report from McKinsey and Co. found that women face two main obstacles on the path to senior leadership: few women already hold roles that lead to the C-suite, and they have lower odds of reaching senior leadership positions.
That fact doesn’t sit well with Hattie Hill, the president and chief executive officer of the Women’s Foodservice Forum, the largest national organization focused on the advancement of women and gender parity on executive teams in the foodservice industry.

Hattie Hill

Hattie Hill
“WFF has been working diligently with not only women but also men to ensure that both genders are working together to support the advancement of women,” Hill said. “A key element to support the advancement of women is sponsorship. Sponsorship from high-level executives is very important to help build leaders, change perception of meritocracy and work to eliminate the gender gap. Both men and women need to work together to create equality in the workplace.” 
Hill has worked as a businesswoman, speaker and international management consultant for more than 20 years. Though her company Hattie Hill Enterprises Inc., a global management, human relations and leadership development firm, has provided leadership development for thousands of senior leaders at numerous
Fortune 500 companies and major organizations — including Aramark Corp., Compass Group, Frito-Lay Inc., and McDonald’s Corp. — she has always focused on developing women leaders in particular.
As part of this mission, Hill and her organization have developed a leadership development workshop to help create more women leaders in the foodservice industry by providing them with the skills they need to succeed. 
Below are edited excerpts from Hill’s interview with Diversity Executive.
Why is it important to develop leadership skills in women in particular?
Women still remain underrepresented at the management and C-suite levels. As the majority of consumers, women tend to hold a significant amount of purchasing power; having female leadership within organizations will help businesses gain further momentum along with a competitive edge on performance and profits.
Why was the Women's Foodservice Forum created? 
It all began back in 1989 when a group of 14 women gathered to discuss the state of women in the foodservice industry. Fast forward to 2015, the Women’s Foodservice Forum [WFF] is now the industry’s premier leadership development organization with more than 25 years of experience advancing, mentoring and supporting women. As the foodservice industry changes, expands and adapts to new generations of consumers and workers, WFF is also aligning our product and service offerings to best service our members and corporate partners.
The organization has 12 core leadership competencies. How were they developed to help women specifically?
WFF’s core leadership competencies offer key strategies that drive career planning and growth for women. They were first developed to empower women by giving them insightful tools they could use to refine their individual professional personas. The reason these competencies were originally developed was because women, who may or may not have gone to college, needed a boost to take them from the kitchen and elevate them to the C-suite. The goal was to help women get on the right path to develop strategic connections and gain sponsorships to support their professional growth.
This leadership development program partners women to keep them accountable for acting on what they’ve learned. Why is this approach necessary for developing women leaders?
We kicked off our first-ever Leadership Development Workshop four-city tour recently. It gives WFF a reason to connect with women and connect women with each other on a local level. This one-day workshop is actually part of a six-month development journey and partnering women up for accountability is key to ensuring success after the workshop is complete because this will help them stay on track with their 30-, 90- and 120-day action plans. Regular check-ins to get updates on each other’s progress will also allow for an opportunity to provide advice and a support system. This is how we will make certain that every attendee will be able to personalize and stick to the knowledge gained during the workshop and implement it to support their personal growth, development, and advancement in the professional arena.
How did you develop yourself as a leader to rise to the position you're in today?
I like to think of myself as a lifelong learner. I have always been curious and had a passion for learning and leading since a young age. I grew up on a small farm in Arkansas, and I was the fourth daughter of a single mother with six girls. I learned at an early age to stand on strong faith and family, and that character and resilience are the cornerstone of anything I chose to do — it has helped me become who I am today. My upbringing has taught me how to treat people kindly and make a positive impact in their lives, and that is what truly makes me successful.