FAB is a three-day conference for women in the hospitality industry, with the hope of strengthening and propelling women and their businesses. This year’s conference wrapped up last week and boasted a roster of over 50 women representing a who’s who of the industry, including Boston chef and restaurateur Barbara Lynch, Katherine Miller of the Chef Action Network, artist and storyteller Jenny Dorsey, and Back in the Day bakery founder Cheryl Day.
Chef Preeti Mistry set a high bar for the conference at Sunday’s afternoon soiree with a rousing speech that touched on the need for women leaders to push for greater diversity and understanding of the communities they serve. The Oakland chef talked about the connection between the ecosystem of hospitality and immigration, Black Lives Matter, and even gentrification issues.
In short, social issues are not separate from the work we do, if we are in the business of servicing communities. he issues that concern our communities must also concern us as leaders and we should model our businesses to support that.
Mistry’s speech gave everyone food for thought and hinted at FAB’s attempt to be more intersectional – that is, mindful of the ways that different forms of discrimination work together – in their approach to programming.
Panels spanned from the operational to the inspirational. Below are just some of the takeaways from the conference.
Boundaries make good business. Women in Hospitality United hosted a collaborative Solution Sprint – a one day workshop focusing on crowdsourcing solutions for common barriers women face – for about 40 FAB attendees. This year’s sprints included topics on work/life balance, confidence in the workplace, and scaling small businesses. I acted as one of the facilitators, helping to unpack the topic of “not being taken seriously.” On the surface, the conversation appeared to be about respect, but further investigation made us aware that it was about setting boundaries. Boundaries are necessary for healthy business practices and assuring the labor of women does not become invisible.
Intentional mentors needed. “Pitch-It” was a hands-on workshop that allowed FAB attendees to apply for an opportunity to build their business pitch decks with the guidance of an industry leader. The experience gave participants real-time feedback and practice in business acumen by asking participants to form marketing plans and build projections. The lack of intentional/transparent mentorship was a consistent topic throughout the conference. This programming provided much-needed support in the form of business mentorship and showcased FAB’s efforts to present solutions where the larger industry lacks universal support structures. [Read more…]