Dedicated to improving women's careers

Creating their own empowerment.

shirley everett headshot

In 2012, Stanford University borrowed some inspiration from the Women’s Foodservice Forum with the launch of a program dedicated to empowering and mentoring women in its Residential & Dining Enterprises division. The R&DE Women’s Leadership Development Program seeks to help women achieve leadership goals through networking, lunchtime discussions, a speaker series, workshops, mentorships and more.

Of course, every leadership group begins with a visionary. Shirley Everett, senior associate vice provost for Stanford R&DE, was the key force behind the launch of the WLDP. Everett had launched programs in support of R&DE’s existing leaders as well as its entry-level employees—particularly those for whom English is a second language—during her decades-long tenure at Stanford. Several years ago, she commissioned a survey that revealed a need to encourage the development of women employees.

“One of my fundamental beliefs is that the highest calling of a great leader is to coach, mentor and develop others,” Everett said in a statement to FoodService Director. “I envisioned a program that would empower and inspire women to develop the necessary leadership skills, and I wanted to provide them with a program to encourage them to achieve even greater heights.”

To make that vision a reality, Everett connected with Eric Montell, executive director for R&DE Stanford Dining, as well as former WFF board member and former Bon Appetit VP/CAO Debi Benedetti to shape a program that draws from the three pillars of WFF’s core competencies: developing self, developing people and developing business. Essentially, the goal was to help employees in the program identify their own career goals, teach them how to inspire communication and strong relationships among their teams and develop their business skills.

With several years of the program under its belt, R&DE says it has “measurably increased” women’s leadership roles with more women overall working within the division. Granted, there have been challenges. Many women in R&DE Dining already are swamped with their work responsibilities. There’s not much time left to get ahead when your nose is always to the grindstone.

Women need to be given flexibility in their schedules to allow their participation in leadership development programs, Everett says. And the WLDP has worked to enhance participation by holding an open house for all R&DE staff—men, too—and is expanding the program to include women from beyond foodservice.

Ultimately, a leadership program’s success is only as strong as those who lead it. “It’s essential to have a champion from the top of the organization that will push the envelope in order to achieve lofty goals for women,” Everett says.

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