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Food industry leaders focus on more women taking top spots

March 2, 2018

DALLAS (AP) — Food industry leaders will be meeting to map out a way to get more women into top spots in the businesses that include manufacturers, distributors and operators.

About 100 CEOs and other executives will be part of the discussion during the conference of the Women’s Foodservice Forum , which starts Sunday in Dallas. About 3,000 people will attend the conference featuring speeches by former first lady Michelle Obama and former news anchor Gretchen Carlson.

The executives come from companies including: Louisville, Kentucky-based Yum Brands, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell; Atlanta-based Coca-Cola; and Houston-based Sysco, a food distributor with more than 500,000 customer locations around the world.

Hattie Hill, president and CEO of the Women’s Foodservice Forum, said getting chief executives involved helps develop “leaders of leaders so that we have a prepared pipeline of talent.”

Hill said her group, founded in 1989, focuses on “eliminating barriers for women.”

The group’s initiative to close the gender equity gap comes amid the Me Too and Time’s Up campaigns against sexual harassment, and Hill noted sexual harassment is among barriers women can face.

A study of the food industry by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company that was released in November found that while women make up almost half of entry-level workers, they fill just 23 percent of senior executive positions, a trend seen across all industries.

Marie Perry, chief financial officer at Frisco, Texas-based Jamba Juice, which has more than 900 stores around the world, said that if all the different sectors in the food industry and their leaders got together on the goal they could make it “an industry of choice for amazing women with talent.”

Perry noted that four of seven executives who report to the CEO at her company are women. She said that one thing that’s been instrumental in her career is being around “amazingly positive women” with significant roles.

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