Wanted: equal opportunity, no separate awards – Round Table for Women in Food Service awards

Wanted: equal opportunity, no separate awards – Round Table for Women in Food Service awards – column

Charles Bernstein

Wanted: equal opportunity, no separate awards

The Round Table for Women (RTW) in Food Service has just completed the selection of 16 women for its third annual Pacesetter awards, to be presented in Chicago in May during the National Restaurant Association Show. A panel of editors, restaurant executives and consultants made the 16 choices from a long list of nominations. (Full details and names will appear in an upcoming issue of Nation’s Restaurant News.)

Awards will be presented in three categories: Pacesetter awards for trend-setting, innovative contributions in the food-service industry; honorable mentions in the same criteria; and Pacesetter awards for pioneers who launched new industry concepts some years ago.

A question that immediately arises is why there should be special awards for women. Why not also for men? Why not for all those of top merit in the industry?

Of course, the answer is that there are several industry awards contests, such as the Silver Plate-Gold Plate annual awards of the International Food Manufacturers Association (IFMA) and Nation’s Restaurant News’ Multi-Unit Food-Service Operators’ (MUFSO) Gold Chain and Operator of the Year awards. Those awards are open to men and women alike, and women have in fact won a healthy share, although not the majority, of such awards.

Since the RTW awards are geared more to the entrepreneurial women, why isn’t there a separate contest for the entrepreneurial men of the year as well?

If it were an ideal, perfectly just world, those questions would be superfluous, as men and women, whites and blacks, and so on, would all have exactly the same opportunities. But while there has certainly been progress in those directions over the years, the reality is that in food service as well as in other fields in the United States, women and various “minorities” still face obstacles in all aspects of business–particularly at the higher levels.

Unfortunately and yet understandably, women under the RTW banner are moving in an action group to obtain equal opportunities in the food-service industry. They are receiving strong support from a number of industry male leaders.

The unfortunate part is that such mobilization is even necessary. The path to executive positions at food-service companies is still a formidable one for even the most talented women. Once again, we see so many of the RTW awards going to women entrpreneurs rather than women executives. The distribution of awards and plaudits would be more equally distributed between entrepreneurs and executives if there were enough women to choose from in the latter category.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court supposedly abolished the “separate but equal” doctrine 32 years ago, there is still a “separate” category that most men in business claim provides equality.

Let’s hope that enough progress is made within the next five years that an organization such as RTW–commendable as it is–will no longer be necessary and that the “separate but equal” awards system will be abolished.

COPYRIGHT 1986 Reproduced with permission of the copyright holder. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

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