- McDonald's has launched a new initiative, "Better Together: Gender Balance And Diversity," aimed to improve the representation of women at all levels of the company and achieve gender equality in career advancement. The company also signed the UN Women's Empowerment Principles to further mark its commitment to progress, according to a company press release.
- The fast food chain employs nearly 2 million people globally and is one of the world's largest employers of women, but it wants to continue driving progress by encouraging franchisees, suppliers and other partners to improve gender balance, Chief People Officer David Fairhurst said in the release.
- To achieve its goals, McDonald's has developed four pillars that will guide the development of milestones: representation, rising, recognition and reach. The company will also pilot activities and advance education and development programs that support women.
McDonald’s is hardly alone, or first, in its pursuit to elevate women throughout its company. Forbes' inaugural Best Employers for Women ranking released last year included nine restaurant companies out of 300: Levy, Caribou Coffee, Five Guys, Red Robin, In-N-Out, Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Panda Express, Chuy's and Texas Roadhouse. Meanwhile, Yum Brands was named to the Bloomberg Gender-Equity Index for the second year in a row.
With its newly announced initiatives, McDonald's is likely to become a bit more competitive with these companies. It's also a savvy recruitment and retention tool, which is critical now in the midst of the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 50 years.
According to McDonald's, 30% of its officer positions and 41% of staff positions at director level and above are held by women globally. The company is ahead of national trends, as just 18% of c-suite executives in the foodservice industry are women. However, as with most major restaurant companies, there is a major gap between female leadership roles and general demographics in the industry. According to the State of Women in the Restaurant and Food Industry, 52% of all restaurant workers are women, while 71% of servers are.
McDonald's is trying to bridge this gap at a time when harassment issues persist throughout the industry and the #MeToo movement has tumbled some of the biggest careers, from Mario Batali to John Besh. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, sexual harassment is more common in the restaurant space than in any other industry. Having more women in leadership positions could help sharpen a focus on this issue.
Although it's not clearly communicated how franchisees will be tasked with supporting gender parity initiatives, one of the company's pilot programs — the Women in Tech initiative — will be implemented at company-owned restaurants as well as participating franchised restaurants. If franchisees are on the hook for any costs associated with these programs, it could pose a challenge, as operators have been at odds with corporate over cash flow and cost priorities for the past few months. There is also a risk of alienating some customers with this campaign. Gillette, for example, experienced a backlash with its "toxic masculinity" ad earlier this year, and some fans may be turned off by what they perceive to be the company playing gender politics.
Ultimately, however, McDonald's move seems to be business savvy. Research released last year from the International Foodservice Distributors Association shows that increasing the representation of women will boost profitability and competitiveness. Among the key findings in that report is that gender diversity can boost sales revenue, increase customers and create better profits. Companies with a high amount of women within their top management positions often report higher returns on equity compared to companies with less gender diversity, according to the report.