Embracing equity in the quick service restaurant sector this International Women’s Day

By Therese Frangie

International Women's Day is a day to celebrate and reflect on the progress we have made in creating a more equal and inclusive workplace for everyone. This year's theme of "Embrace Equity" brings this to the forefront and equal opportunities should be tailored to individual needs.

Across the board from the C-suite to the restaurant floor, teams that flourish are of various genders, cultures, education levels and experiences. I believe that quotas and mandates for an equal 50% male/female split limit diversity and the ability to make the right decisions for the best interests of people and businesses.

As a leader at Mad Mex and in the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) industry, I understand the importance of taking proactive steps to promote equity in organisations and to lead from the front.

As a mother, I am committed to creating a world where my daughters are not limited by their gender but empowered by equality and equity.

So, today, in honour of International Women's Day, I am advocating for an equitable world. A level playing field. There is so much more work to be done but here are my top five tips for fostering workplace equity in a multi-site QSR organisation and some of the things we do at Mad Mex.

1. Be aware of your unconscious biases
As leaders, it is essential to prioritise recognising and acknowledging our own unconscious biases. Our upbringing, education, and life experiences all contribute to the formation of our biases which may hinder us from fostering equality and equity within the organisation. It ‘all starts from the top’, so it is paramount that as leaders we ask ourselves; “Do I hold stereotypes or assumptions around a particular situation or group?” Do I acknowledge and leverage differences within my team?”

Self-reflection can help us become aware of our biases so we can then take proactive steps to address them and lead an organisation that promotes equality and equity.

2. Educate teams on cultural differences and celebrate these differences
Diversity and cultural differences are an advantage to businesses and should be celebrated. We must educate and coach our teams on cultural differences so that they are aware of their own biases that may impede their leadership. In a multi-distributed business, this may feel out of our control but with ongoing training and education, cascaded across all levels, teams within the network will understand and appreciate and celebrate cultural differences. At Mad Mex, we track and record internal promotions from the restaurant level to the support of the office. This data allows us to measure if we are truly being equitable.

3. Provide flexibility and support to accommodate employees’ individual needs
Embracing equity means recognising that everyone has unique needs. By asking our employees to bring their ‘whole selves to work, we need to support them to do so. Take returning mums for example. Understanding their return-to-work needs and providing flexibility and remote working can allow women to return to work as early as they desire without having to sacrifice things like breastfeeding. This allows organisations to retain top talent, and women can continue to contribute. An advantage of the QSR industry is the ability to offer flexible hours, across seven days, particularly at an Operations level. At Mad Mex we promote flexibility and offer financial support to new parents and support primary carers by providing six weeks’ paid leave plus super.

4. Ask questions and seek to understand
To foster equity in the workplace, it's important to understand the unique needs of each team member. ‘Seek to understand” requires us to be curious and to actively seek out the perspectives of others. We encourage leaders at Mad Mex to be approachable and listen because by asking questions we can create a more inclusive environment where everyone's needs are heard.

5. Lead from the heart
Leading from the heart means recognising that employees are human. By having open and honest conversations with our teams, we can make decisions that benefit both the business and its people. Whether we're in an office, a restaurant, or a franchising role, leading from the heart takes a vulnerable approach to understanding and responding to our team member's needs, ultimately creating an equitable and successful environment for everyone.

This International Women’s Day let’s build on equality and #embraceequity.

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