Reflections on Glass

FoodService Director - What I Learned - Shirley Everett - Stanford University - Reflections on GlassThroughout her years in the industry, Shirley Everett, associate vice provost for Residential & Dining Enterprises at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., has witnessed the challenges women face in foodservice. And although the glass ceiling has cracked, Everett still thinks there is work to be done.

FoodService Director - What I Learned - Shirley Everett - Stanford University - Reflections on GlassShirley Everett, associate vice provost for Residential & Dining Enterprises at Stanford University, has risen far in college foodservice during a career that has spanned both coasts. But she has experienced her share of bias during her life, and she recently shared her thoughts on the glass ceiling.

“There certainly have been some significant changes [for women in foodservice] from then to now. There are many more women in leadership positions now than ever before. Many companies are embracing the value of diversity and creating programs and initiatives whose goals are to promote women and diversity in the industry, and I greatly applaud those efforts. But I think that we’re just starting to see the glass ceiling crack. The glass ceiling needs to be broken, not cracked. 

There still are attitudes and behaviors and stereotypes from the past that subordinate women in the minds of many folks. Even though many women are leaders in their fields and really, I think, doing wonderful, fantastic work out there, there is a pervasive belief that women still have to prove themselves more than their counterparts. The greatest challenge women still face is removing the barriers to equitably establish women in a male-dominated power base.

I think we’re moving toward a culture change. One of the reasons for the improvement that we are seeing is that women have taken charge of their own self-esteem, their own self worth, their growth and their development. They’re having families later and making informed choices that work for them, rather than what others believed in the past was important for them. I think women are challenging the status quo and building their own networks and associations, heading their own companies.

Women now have the opportunity to attend and create leadership development programs, bring other women along. But I also think credit should be given to legislators as well, in terms of creating policies that have positively affected the advancement of women in industry.

I think women have to empower themselves by having the appropriate skills and the passion for what it is they want to do. They have to be able to sacrifice. Passion will help you deal with any kind of sacrifice. But I think women also have to [understand] that going up the corporate ladder is not the only option. Creating their own businesses certainly is an avenue I think women are looking at and being very successful at doing.

I’m still trying to find a work/life balance. I’m still trying to manage it as effectively as I possibly can and it really is a struggle. I think that many women, including myself, are still trying to deal with that superwoman ‘mystique,’ if you will. It sometimes is personally imposed because we don’t want to be seen as a failure or we don’t want to be seen as incapable of competing with our colleagues and male counterparts. We are held to a different standard.

I think 1997 was one of the periods in my life where I thought my work/life balance was out of balance the most. At that point I was working on my MBA, my mother was fighting a battle with cancer, I was a regional president and conference chair for NACUFS, I was renovating and transforming the dining program, all while I was dealing with my ongoing commitments as a wife and as a mother of a teenager. I think I learned at that point my strengths and my areas for growth. I would say since then I’ve been teaching myself along with my team how to balance. Now it’s a core value for us. I’m creating programs so I can walk my talk.

One of those programs is a holistic wellness program. My motto [used to be] if I got the urge to exercise I’d take a deep breath and wait ’til the urge passed. Now, I try to get out there and start to walk. I’ve realized that life is too short; I want to enjoy it.”



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