Join us today in celebrating International Women’s Day 2016. A day that marks both the plights and achievements of women around the world, International Women’s Day was first organized in 1911 by German socialist and theorist Clara Zetkin as a call for women’s suffrage. Today, Restaurants Canada would like to take a moment to recognize the changes and growth that women have forged throughout our vibrant industry.
The Canadian foodservice and restaurant industry accounts for 1.2 million jobs in Canada – producing 6.9% of our overall workforce. Women have played an integral and important role in our industry’s growth and history – and continue to do so to this day.
It’s in women such as Jean B. Lumb – restaurateur and lobbyist for immigration reform in the 1970s, that we see a tradition of pioneers creating a better country through their hard work and tenacity. Lumb worked to eradicate racism in her community – all while honouring her roots. She owned and operated the Kwong Chow, a Toronto restaurant with a great reputation. For Lumb, her restaurant was more than just a business. The Kwong Chow was a community hub, a place where Lumb was able to share her Chinese culture and ultimately promote cultural integration. In 1976, Lumb became the first Chinese-Canadian woman and the first restaurateur appointed to the Order of Canada.
Our vibrant industry has always provided Canadians with opportunities for career development and personal growth. With 735,600 women in Canada’s foodservice industry, they make up over 60% of our industry’s workforce – and that number is growing! Jobs in our industry provide women from all walks of life a chance for personal and professional growth, whether they choose to make a career in hospitality, or use it as a launching pad for further education.
Canada’s restaurants provide more first jobs than any other industry. Twenty-two per cent of Canadians got their career start in a restaurant or foodservice business. These jobs are a starting point for possibilities, opportunities and a chance for advancement for women across the country.
Cora Mussely Tsouflidou, of Chez Cora was able to find footing in our industry when faced with the task of being a single mother. Throwing herself into her work, she expanded what was a small diner into a national chain. A self-made businesswoman, Cora has been honoured with numerous awards and recognition, and in 2006, her company was named one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies.
Each day, we see women bringing a unique and fresh perspective to the table and helping to grow and innovate our industry. There are women such as Calgary’s Manjit Minhas of Minhas Brewery, who in 2006 was named the youngest brewery owner in the world. Today, Minhas is a regular feature on CBC’s Dragons’ Den and is an inspiration for many women across the country.
In the East there are entrepreneurs like Brenda O’Reilly, who has contributed immensely to the culture and cuisine of Newfoundland and Labrador through her pub, restaurants, brewery and many other projects. You can hear Brenda’s story in our film “I am a Restaurant,” which also features several other successful women in our industry.
From east to west, women account for many of the great food experiences we have each day. They are exemplary models of business – persevering and pioneering through an ever-changing environment. Susan Senecal, President and Chief Operating Officer of A&W Canada has championed a new brand awareness and image for the Canadian company at a pivotal time in its history.
We’re also an industry that’s known for building a sense of community. In addition to stirring up product and service innovations, Starbucks Canada President Rossann Williams has led a campaign to create job opportunities for disadvantaged youth.
There are more than 700,000 great stories of women in our industry, and we’ll be sharing more of them over the coming months.
We’re proud to represent and champion an industry as exciting and diverse as the Canadian restaurant and foodservice industry. Without the tireless trailblazing of thousands of women throughout the years and across the country, we wouldn’t be as far as we are today. A happy International Women’s Day!