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From nuclear family to foodservice family, women provide strong, lasting role models - NRN Editorial - Editorial
Nation's Restaurant News,  April 8, 2002  by Ellen Koteff


Editorial Page Editor: Robin Lee Allen

Alan Gould, Ellen Koteff, Richard Martin, Elissa Elan, Alan Liddle, Richard L. Papiernik, Pau Frumklin and Ron Ruggless

When it comes to female role models, I hit the jackpot.

When I was growing up, I never realized that it was a man's world. In truth, for a long time I've felt women had the advantage because of their ability to sensitize themselves to all sides of an issue.

Of course, at age 6 I didn't verbalize it quite like that. It just seemed to me that I always could trust Mom and Granny to give me a fair and wise response no matter what the circumstance was.

My mom was a nurse. She earned a nursing degree from Loyola University in Chicago and trained in surgery at Michael Reese Hospital there. She was strong, patient and the most unselfish person I have ever known. My mother took time off from her nursing career to raise a family, but it was clearly her choice.

My paternal grandmother, on the other hand, had little choice. She was widowed at a young age and left with eight children to care for during the Depression. She owned and operated a bakery and bar, and the family lived above it in Homewood, Ill. Somehow she managed to keep everything, and, dare I say, everyone in line, with a firm, no-nonsense approach to life and a wicked sense of humor. My cousins and I would laugh when she would regale us with tales of pulling hot bread from the oven with bare hands and drunken customers who had to be shown the door.

Sadly, they are both gone now. But what isn't gone is the legacy they left behind.

I am very supportive of women in the workplace, but no one would accuse me of being a "women's libber." I've always enjoyed the differences between men and women, and while I think they should be treated with equality, I celebrate the uniqueness of each.

Let's face it: Men and women, for the most part, think differently. I figured that out a long time ago. Growing up with two brothers and two sisters enabled me not only to see but also to understand the differences.

Since I loved my brothers, I was able to appreciate them as human beings first and as males second. Obviously, coming from the same family, we had more in common than not. But differences there were.

Personally, I think it's ludicrous to pretend that those differences don't exist. Working side by side with men always has been a learning experience for me because I love to figure out what makes a person tick. And the ticking that goes on inside of a man's head is a lot different from the ticking in mine. For me that gender difference makes everything in life -- including business -- more interesting.

Women have had to work their way slowly into the boardrooms of corporate America, and foodservice likewise has been slow to recognize what women are able to bring to the table.

Those women that have broken through the glass ceiling share a common ingredient -- passion. From my vantage point it is that passion that drives both sexes to succeed. Without passion it's just another day at work.

In this issue of Nation's Restaurant News we are profiling 30 Women Power Players who had the passion to achieve their dreams. This special section was timed to coincide with the Women's Foodservice Forum's 13th Annual Leadership Conference, which this year takes place in Atlanta.

When selecting the candidates for inclusion in this issue, the editors of NRN narrowed the field to restaurant operators and executives of operator-focused associations.

Because our criteria excluded the supplier, academic, ad agency and consultant ranks, a lot of industry power players unfortunately had to be left out. Kellogg's Carla Cooper, Elliot Associates' Alice Elliot, Two Chefs on a Roll's Lori Daniel Swartz, Land 0' Lakes' Kim Ewers and Kathleen Wood of Elliot Solutions are but a few that immediately come to mind.

Most of the women profiled are well known in the industry, while others are just emerging into the upper echelon of professional foodservice management.

Our profilees include women at quick-serve chains and casual dinnerhouses and those at fine-dining restaurants. Some are entrepreneurs. Some are chief financial officers. They are married, single and divorced and hail from Michigan; Washington, D.C.; Berkeley, Calif.; and elsewhere.

Like my mother and grandmother before them, those women are strong role models and living proof that it doesn't have to be a man's world.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Reproduced with permission of the copyright holder. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group