How many people do you know who, at the age of 14, started selling burgers and then after 13 promotions over 26 years now run 870 restaurants employing 90,000 people? How many aeronautical engineers from Boeing would you expect to find running supply chain in a food business? How many HR managers do you know who own McDonald's Franchises? Well, I know these 3 McDonald's executives and they are all women. Their stories remind us that women can do anything so I included them in Stepping Up.
Taking the blinkers off
Above is Catriona Noble, CEO of McDonald's Australia: several people told me I should meet her, except one. As I wandered around the city asking leaders 'Which people and organisations do you suggest I interview for Stepping Up?', one male HR director said 'Don't bother with the American companies: diversity is all about black and white in America.' Ouch!
How many people do you think hold this view? Perhaps you do. Or maybe you disagree with this man's apparent assumption that America and American-owned companies are stuck in the mindset of 1963 when Martin Luther King shone a spot-light on culture diversity. If this is his assumption, then perhaps he also assumes foreign-owned Australia-based companies are incapable of developing their own local culture and diversity profiles. Double ouch!
We need to take the blinkers off to allow our assumptions and biases to be tested. As humans, we live in societies and adopt assumptions and biases from the cultures we live in and the people who raise us. However, humans are intelligent beings, so we also have the capacity to contest the assumptions, values and beliefs handed down over time. As the world around us changes we, too, must be open to changing.
Foreign-owned Australia-based companies validate changing times
It is true that foreign-owned Australia-based companies can learn and borrow from their parent company's journey and create their own unique cultures that support gender diversity at the same time. The McDonald's Australia case study in Chapter 11 of Stepping Up, outlines how it has, for many years, been actively building the careers of female employees. They have grown the number of women in senior management by encouraging girls in 'after school jobs' to follow a professional career path in the company, by laterally hiring talent from other industries and roles and by supporting women as they switch between functional and operational roles, broadening their experience and skills.
The success of McDonald's Australia as a breeding place for talented women was endorsed when the global executive team appointed Catriona Noble as the first-ever female CEO to operate one of the company's Top 10 Global Markets. Catriona became the CEO of McDonald's Australia after many years of sponsorship and mentoring and in the book I have described her journey and the support she enjoyed from bosses and peers.
The number of senior women in this food and restaurant business in Australia is validation that it can be done. It demonstrates that women can, and do, rise to the top of non-traditional sectors, that they can switch between roles and industries without falling over, and that they can manage careers and having children at the same time. However, all of this can only be done so successfully when the company culture supports and encourages their development and progression.
A fresh perspective
It is my hope that these stories will encourage people to take the blinkers off for a while and look at the possibilities. I hope also that headhunters, recruiters and hiring managers will begin to challenge the assumptions they hold about people based on their gender, marital status, race, colour, name or accent. I hope they will check the biases they hold about the suitability of certain people to work in certain industries. I hope that they will recognise which of their actions serve to keep the glass and bamboo ceilings so firmly in place that few people can reach the top.
In addition, for young women, I hope that they will find the stories of the women from McDonald's – together with the stories about Woolworths and Ernst & Young's women in Chapter 11 of Stepping Up – sufficiently inspiring that they broaden their horizons and believe in their ability to reach their goals.
Knowing how others have travelled the pathways we want to take helps us all on our journey.
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Author: Pamela Young