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POWER OF THE PACK: HER-OIC FEATS OF WOMEN IN THE FACE OF A PANDEMIC

No doubt, there’s been a lot to process since we last celebrated Women’s History Month.

In 2021 alone, the nation watched a triple-ceiling smasher take the oath of office, becoming the highest-ranking woman in U.S. history; Georgia ushered in their first Black female fire captain, our first female referee officiated the Super Bowl, the World Trade Organization appointed the first women Director-General – the list goes on. And in these short 90 days of this year, this impressive lineup of highly accomplished women has let the world know: the future is female.

This year has brought into clear focus the progress we’ve made over the last several generations.

Last year, I wrote about my own Her-story – which is characterized by outdated gendered perceptions and biases that have long plagued the career growth and rank of women from the Baby Boomer generation and Gen X – against the her-stories of the exceptional younger women of FLIK, who have come of age in a fortunately more respectful and equitable climate. We demanded that. Change is hard, and too often it is too incremental, but we persist. And we continue to demand fair treatment for the generations that come after us. I am confident with our super generation of young associates that our women are positioned to lead at FLIK and in the Hospitality industry as a whole. 

And we are going to need this super generation of good women to make a better world become a reality. As we watch this pandemic run its course on our world’s history, it’s clear that women have been bearing the brunt of the storm. I can’t help but notice that many women have had to endure the same systemic inequality in their own homes. Women are still tied to age-old stereotypical roles: They’re doing the bulk of the cooking, cleaning, parenting, and now lesson planning, all while balancing toddlers on their knees and laptops on their desks. And that’s a recipe for burnout. 

A report from the Center for American Progress found that “four times as many women as men dropped out of the labor force in September, roughly 865,000 women compared with 216,000 men. This validates all the predictions that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and the accompanying child-care and school crises—would be severe.”

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With so many women out of the workforce, many industries will be turned upside down. Considering women are responsible for 70-80% of all consumer purchasing and are the economic decision-makers for their families, businesses would be wise to rehire these valuable assets. I see it even within my own buying decisions. If a company is not on board with women leadership and equality, you have lost my dollar. One great example happened two years ago when my husband and I were looking to do some home renovations. I asked a few contractors to come to the house and quote the job. One insisted my husband be present, wrongly assuming he makes all our purchasing decisions. Quite the opposite: I have overseen every home renovation job, for our last 3 homes, during our 23 years of marriage. Needless to say, that contractor lost my dollar and the fact that I make those decisions in our house has saved my marriage. 

Then there are the stories of the women I have the pleasure of working with every day. Many are mothers with infants, toddlers, and grade-school children. (My daughter, now a young adult, lost her newfound independence for a while and moved back home. That had its own challenges for both of us!) Two women in my department were pregnant during the pandemic and have come back from maternity leave. I know how hard being a working mom is under normal circumstances, and yet, my co-workers demonstrated their nimbleness as they pivoted and adapted to an entirely new reality.

If necessity is the mother of invention, FLIK moms innovated and improvised as they reinvented what it meant to be a working mother. As we shifted to a virtual workplace, the separation between home and work literally disappeared. If you add kids to the mix, the situation can become almost untenable. I watched on video calls as our moms managed to keep their young children at bay, while they worried about whether their children were grasping the schoolwork or suffering from depression due to lack of socialization. So many young mothers within the organization made lemonade out of lemons by posting cooking demonstrations on our FLIK YouTube channel under the “FLIK at Home” series with their children, proving again that women are a powerful force in understanding what the consumer base is looking for. A connection through food that brings people together, fosters community and nourishes us on so many levels.

Some FLIK women have gone from the fire into the frying pan, during this pandemic. Many are still on furlough during our account closures, and others have continued working throughout the pandemic, putting themselves at risk on the frontlines to feed essential workers. Too many of our women associates struggle with access to quality childcare, and some manage households as single parents. In the United States, approximately 13.6 million single parents are raising 22.4 million children. Eighty percent of those parents are moms. Couple it with the pandemic and it’s a devastating scenario for single working mothers.  The resilience our associates have shown is a testament to their character and a huge asset to our business. We should all be beyond humbled by their tenacity, spirit, and strength.

This month, our marketing department in collaboration with FLIK’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Council invited women in the organization to “Tell Their Her-story.” As I read through the stories, I was floored by the grit, grace, gratitude, persistence, and above all, the love they all exude. I learned about their sacrifices, overcoming obstacles, navigating life choices, balancing career goals with personal ones, and the many roles women in the organization hold, in and out of the business. Despite the daunting challenges we’ve faced this past year, the future looks bright thanks to these inspiring and intrepid women.

FLIK also made important history of its own with our first female-only conference call that brought together 40 talented, dedicated and compassionate women to read through a script for our monthly “Setting the Seasonal Stage” video. I assure you the women of FLIK are a force to be reckoned with. They are poised and positioned to be the bold, new leaders that this moment in history demands. FLIK women know now is the time for fresh ideas, big change and new paradigms. And now, more than ever, is the time we need to honor, respect and create opportunities for women. We have captured the spirit and power of the Fab Forty event for all associates to be motivated and inspired, not only professionally but personally.

I know I don’t need to stray far to find inspiration. It’s right here within my team and throughout FLIK. Shorna Banerjee, a Sous Chef from McLean, Virginia, says it all in her Her-story.

“When we empower ourselves with true knowledge, an open mind, colorblindness, and inclusiveness we will begin this arduous task of seeing capabilities, potential, growth, and not gender. It begins at home, we are raising girls more like boys, but few have the courage to raise their boys more like our daughters.”

Perhaps it begins at home and from the incredible strides that were hard-earned by heroes of the fight for equality – like my beloved and departed RBG – over the years. I look at my team, my daughter, my friends’ daughters, and I think “The future is female!” Who knows? Four years from now we may be celebrating Women’s History Month with our first female president. 

By Paula Schaire, Vice President of Marketing & Design, FLIK Hospitality Group

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At FLIK Hospitality Group we believe in great food, great service, and great people. Our wellness first approach ensures our food supports healthy and delicious choices, specially curated by our team of culinary experts and registered dietitians. At FLIK, we believe in seasonality in sourcing our ingredients and providing a customized approach to the culinary and hospitality needs of each client. Our dedication to providing quality hospitality service is unparalleled in the industry.

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