Mar 8, 2024 3 min read

What Happens in Nashville...

Last week, I had the honor of attending the inaugural Women in Restaurant Leadership (WiRL) conference in Nashville, TN. Regardless of gender or career stage, here are a few key takeaways from the event.
What Happens in Nashville...

I never considered myself a feminist, not due to a lack of concern or belief in women's rights, but because I grew up in a family and community where, as a female, I was consistently treated equally, if not superiorly, to the males around me. It was simply the norm to be a girl.

My mother, an entrepreneur with a successful event planning business, (and if you know me and have been to a Branded event, you’re probably thinking “well that explains a lot”), and my aunt, who ran a thriving medical practice, were influential figures in my life. Additionally, my great aunt served as the President of the NJ chapter of NOW, and my home state's governor was female. Both the President and Valedictorian of my senior class were also women. Supported by my wonderful older brother and father, I learned the importance of speaking up, being confident, and believing I could achieve anything. The male friends I grew up with consistently treated me and my girlfriends with respect. And if I’m really trying to prove a point and grasp for straws … I was even the “captain” of the boy’s club in Kindergarten.

In my professional life, I began my career at a non-profit run by women, followed by two other positions working under inspiring female leaders. Currently, I am a business partner with two incredible men who have treated me with respect as an equal for the past 12 years. I am fortunate to have a work-life balance that is not only respected but encouraged.

Acknowledging this privilege, I am grateful for my journey, though it has not been without instances of exposure, discrimination, harassment, and inequality. The hospitality industry, particularly in the back of the house, is notoriously male-dominated. Looking back to my early days at Branded, I was often the only woman in the room during our weekly management meetings. Attending my first Hospitality Tech events, I observed a limited presence of women. While reminiscing about the past can be important, I am here to discuss the present and future.

Last week, I had the honor of attending the inaugural Women in Restaurant Leadership (WiRL) conference in Nashville, TN. As both an attendee and a proud member of the WiRL Board, I was deeply impressed by the event organized by Danny Klein of WTWH media. Bringing together 250 women in restaurants and hospitality, the conference stood out from others, leaving me with valuable conversations, advice, and lessons.

Regardless of gender or career stage, here are a few key takeaways from the event:

  1. Mom Guilt is Real: Conversations about "mom guilt" were prevalent. Leaving home for work and relying on teachers and caregivers can induce guilt, as does prioritizing children over work commitments. It's crucial to recognize that these feelings are personal, and our colleagues and children may not perceive them as we do.
  1. Non-Mom Guilt is Real: While my first point addresses mom guilt, it's essential to acknowledge the guilt experienced by those who are not parents. Just as cigarette smokers once had extra breaks, non-parents should feel empowered to prioritize their health, family, friends, and personal time. (And yes, I just compared being a parent to smoking - don't @ me).
  2. Lead by Example: Inspiring stories were shared by fellow board members. One woman emphasized the importance of transparently balancing work and caring for her sick mother, learning from the experience to encourage her employees to do the same. Another woman highlighted the positive impact of her company president's supportive response to her pregnancy announcement, demonstrating the value of leading by example.
  3. See Something, Say Something: Harassment was a central theme in one breakout session. The call to action was clear – if you witness inappropriate or discriminatory behavior, speak up. It's a simple but necessary step towards creating a respectful and inclusive environment.

To those who have reached this point, thank you for reading. Happy Women's Month to all the women, supportive men, women shaping respectful men, and powerful women. I suppose I am a feminist after all 😊

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