What started in 1989 as a conversation about creating opportunities for women in the foodservice industry has emerged as a powerful movement for leadership development and, ultimately, gender equity. The Coca‑Cola Company has actively supported the organization driving this work – the Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF) – for more than two decades.
A delegation of 135 leaders from Coca‑Cola North America recently attended the WFF Leadership Conference in Dallas to network, learn and gain inspiration alongside partners and industry peers. The representation at the three-day event – which was held during Women’s History Month (March) – supports the company’s aspiration to be 50% led by women globally by 2030.
The conference included breakout sessions designed to help participants at all career levels develop leadership skills, build meaningful connections and gain actionable insights, as well as inspirational keynote speeches under the theme of “Limitless You.”
“The goal was for all women, regardless of where they are in their career, to walk away from the experience with the belief that there are no boundaries for growth, connection and inspiration in our industry – and then act on that belief,” said Tanika Cabral Vice President and General Manager of Franchise Leadership & Operations for Coca‑Cola North America, and WFF Executive Board Member.
“Our role as a longstanding WFF partner is now more critical than ever, as the industry reignites its mission to elevate women,” Cabral added, noting that COVID-19 and the “Great Resignation” disproportionately impacted the foodservice industry. “At Coca‑Cola, we believe these investments benefit women, our business and our communities. When we empower women to take leaps into roles of increasing responsibility and influence, we’re all better.”
Mayson Spellman, National Account Director for AMC Theatres, represented Coca‑Cola as a WFF Change Maker. The leadership pipeline development program champions professional growth for the industry’s next generation of women leaders.
“The WFF Leadership Conference has always held a special place in my heart, but I have to say, experiencing it as a Change Maker brought new perspective,” Spellman said. “It made me want to connect even further with attendees to build authentic and lasting relationships, take in every moment and determine how I can continue to bring positive change and transformation to The Coca‑Cola Company and its incredible associates.”
Kara Katsouros, Senior National Sales Executive, said the conference inspired her to take a career-changing leap she’d been considering for years. “Shortly after returning, I applied and interviewed for a new position and landed the job,” she said. “An endless number of highlights from the event fueled me to be brave and initiate change.”
Notably, men represented 10% of Coca‑Cola attendees. Daniel Bush, a Senior National Customer Operations Manager at Coca‑Cola North America, is Coca‑Cola’s First Male Ally WFF Ambassador.
“Leaning into allyship rooted in action has brought opportunities to encourage, empower and impact others’ career journeys in meaningful ways,” Bush said. “My second year attending WFF Leadership Conference was fantastic as it provided not only unique inspiration and tools to improve, but also exciting ideas of to how better support women equity moving forward.”
Male champions and advocates play a critical role in helping move the needle for women. “We can accelerate change in this space with the support of our male colleagues, and it starts with awareness and understanding of the hurdles women face” Cabral said. “And women can help men, too! Emulating leadership traits more commonly demonstrated by women such as coaching, mentoring and creating collaborative and team-focused approaches to leadership, will resonate with the next generation of leaders. We can support each other.”
WFF provides research, insights and best practices to help food companies recruit gender-diverse talent and create equitable work environments where women thrive and organizations reap the rewards of a diverse workforce. In addition to sponsoring the annual leadership conference, funding also provides access to inspirational communities, leadership development workshops, buzzworthy podcasts and other initiatives to help the industry close the gender equity gap and pave the way for other sectors.