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Celebrating and Advancing Women at McDonald’s

March 8, 2019

In 2018, we flipped our hallmark Golden Arches to acknowledge and honor the extraordinary accomplishments of women everywhere and especially in our restaurants. This iconic moment was a catalyst for McDonald’s to closely examine what it means to not just say thank you, but to create a business environment where the full diversity of women feel recognized, represented and can advance in their careers, and in the growth of their businesses, without fear of bias. On this International Women’s Day, McDonald’s is proud to launch a global strategy, BETTER TOGETHER: Gender Balance & Diversity, underscoring this year’s International Women’s Day theme, #BalanceForBetter which recognizes that balance is not just a women’s issue, but a business issue.

As McDonald’s Global Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of Global Community Engagement, I believe that we are Better Together – that the strength and diversity of our talent will enable us to build a better, stronger McDonald’s. We are committed to creating a workplace where everyone is equally supported and empowered to realize their full potential, and with this initiative, we are pledging to accelerate McDonald’s progress toward gender balance and diversity. 

To help achieve our vision, we developed four central pillars that drive the actions we will take. They are:

  • Representation: Aim for the representation of women at every level in our business to be equal to – or better than – the representation of women in the external workforce.
  • Rising: Enhance equality in career advancement for men and women.
  • Recognition: Celebrate the voices and impact of women in the business and report on progress globally.
  • Reach: Achieve progress on a global scale by encouraging franchisees and suppliers to deliver strategies that drive gender balance and improve diversity, with the goal of reaching millions of women worldwide.

These four pillars will guide McDonald’s in developing key milestones and piloting a range of activities to promote gender balance by 2023. Some key actions McDonald’s will take in the short-term include, using gender neutral job-descriptions in English speaking countries for office and restaurant roles, increasing diverse candidate slates and interview panels, as well as investing in tools that use artificial intelligence to recognize and mitigate bias from the selection process. We’ll also set longer-term milestones as we continue to review policies, listen to our people and identify opportunities. 

I believe we are moving in the right direction. Together with our franchisees, McDonald’s provides jobs for almost 2 million people across the world and is one of the largest employers of women. At present, 30% of Officer roles globally are held by women, 41% of staff positions at Director level and above are held by women globally, and in the U.S., six out of ten restaurant managers are women. In 2018, 50% of office staff promotions went to women, and in four of our five largest company-owned markets more than half of those promoted were women. 

Still there are a range of opportunities to increase promotion rates of women where they are below 50%. That’s why, we will review our high-potential talent pools to promote gender balance and accelerate their careers through executive mentoring and sponsorship. We will also advance education and development programs to support women to progress.

I’m excited to share developments we’re making at the restaurant level. As part of this, McDonald’s is piloting a new “Women in Tech” initiative through its signature education and tuition assistance program, Archways to Opportunity, to enable women from company-owned restaurants and participating franchisee restaurants to learn skills in areas such as data science, cyber security, artificial intelligence and more. The goal of this initiative is to support broader representation of women in technology fields and support employees on their path to success – at McDonald’s and beyond. The pilot will start in the U.S. this spring with the goal of rolling it out to more countries in the future. McDonald’s will partner with Microsoft to provide the technical skills curriculum and Colorado Technical University to deliver access to the learning. This initiative will offer US participants college credits, a credential upon completion and help them build a foundation for lifelong learning that’s necessary to compete in this 21st century economy. 

I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken at McDonald’s to achieve gender balance, but also fully aware of the gaps that still exist and that the journey to progress is not easy. I pledge to be transparent as we move forward: We will share best practices where we are discovering successes, but also be honest about the challenges we face. Additionally, I am also pleased to share that McDonald’s has signed on to the UN Women's Empowerment Principles. We are proud to join the other signatories to help accelerate global efforts to address this critical issue.

Imperative to achieving gender balance is McDonald’s fierce commitment to providing a safe work environment that fosters respect, fairness and dignity and is free of harassment, discrimination or fear of retaliation. We remain committed to assessing and advancing specific policies and practices to ensure we are meeting the current needs of our employees. In 2018, we published a global Human Rights Policy with the aim of strengthening our approach and providing greater alignment and clarity across the business. McDonald’s also recently enhanced our discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation policy and training for U.S. staff and Company-owned restaurant employees to provide a more employee-centered approach. Our new policy reflects feedback from stakeholders across the organization including restaurant and staff employees, as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other third-party experts. Those conversations helped us to make the language of our policy even clearer and more transparent. In support of this, in late 2018 we began implementing new, mandatory and interactive training for company-owned restaurant General Managers and staff employees on harassment and discrimination in the workplace. 

To represent the full diversity of women, we also must cultivate a culture of bias-awareness and inclusion. At McDonald's, “Diversity is inclusion” – a bold and seismic value proposition where every individual feels their culture, identity and experiences are valued and respected. We know that listening to and participating in knowledge-sharing and eclectic insights has helped make us the organization we are today - from our crew members to our c-suite, our suppliers to our customers and to our community partners.

The video we created for International Women’s Day celebrates the essential role of all women across the McDonald’s system, including in restaurants, on farms or in offices. I’m inspired by the women featured in the video such as franchisee Kiana Webb, a second-generation operator who helps run her family’s 16 restaurants.; Charlotte Webb who is studying sustainable agriculture practices as part of McDonald’s Progressive Young Farmer program; and Claudia Moran, crew member turned McDonald’s technology apprentice, who is completing her college degree with company support. Our business is stronger because of them. 

Ultimately, I am confident that this strategy will help accelerate McDonald’s progress and further leverage our scale for good. By inspiring employees, franchisees, suppliers and beyond to push for advancement of women throughout our value chain, we can truly become better together and champion women not only today, but every day.

Wendy Lewis, Vice President and Global Chief Diversity Officer

Wendy Lewis