A Look at McDonalds’ Gender Initiative

When McDonalds’ announced on International Women’s Day (March 8) that the company will enact a gender initiative designed to elevate women throughout the company, it took a big step into the future of recruitment and retention.

“Gender balance and diversity makes McDonald’s stronger,” McDonald’s Chief People Officer, David Fairhurst said in a company press release. “Together with our franchisees, McDonald’s provides jobs for almost 2 million people across the world and is one of the world’s largest employers of women. We’re committed to inspiring workplaces where everyone – from crew to c-suite – is equally supported and empowered to realize their full potential.

Elevating women has been an industry-wide trend for a couple of years. Forbes currently has nine restaurants in its list of top-100 places for women to work. McDonalds’ approach to recruiting and retaining women is similar to others on the list in that the company hopes to boost profitability and competitiveness with other like-minded companies.

However, McDonalds’ approach differs in that the company will also advance educational and support programs for women as well through its “Women in Tech” program. This is meant to signal to future executive prospects that the company is actively working to tackle the sexual harassment problems that currently plague the restaurant industry as a whole.

To this end, McDonalds created four pillars to guide its Gender Initiative: Representation, Rising, Recognition, and Reach. In each of these pillars are reasons for the company to be optimistic about the initiative’s success.

Representation: According to the State of Women in the Restaurant and Food Industry, 52% of all restaurant workers are women, and 71% of servers are as well. These stats point to a growing need for restaurants to accurately represent their workforce within their executive suites.

Globally, 30 percent of McDonalds’ executives are women, as is 41 percent of their directors, placing the company well ahead of the industry average of 18 percent. 

By enacting this initiative, McDonalds is forging ahead while other competitors flounder because of the #MeToo movement.

Rising: According to Human Resources Today, “many organizations have prioritized representation and fair treatment of minorities, primarily for reasons of equality, morality, and legal compliance.” The reason for doing so is simple: it’s what millennials are looking for. And, since millennials make up the largest demographic in the workforce today, it makes sense for a company to adapt its behavior in order to retain its talent.

“Inclusion is not simply being permitted to enter an organization, but being listened to and engaged once there,” one article states.

Recognition: For women to feel included in the workplace, they can’t simply have an office on the same floor as other executives. They need to be heard. McDonalds’ Gender Initiative recognizes the women rising through the company ranks by “celebrat[ing] the voices and impact of women in the business and report on progress globally,” according to the company’s press release.

Reach: McDonalds has been one of the most generous companies when it comes to providing its workforce with continuing education scholarships. To date, the company has given out tens of millions of dollars in scholarships.

By adding its “Women in Tech” initiative through the company’s signature tuition assistance program, Archways to Opportunity, women from company-owned restaurants and participating franchisee restaurants will be able to learn skills in areas such as data science, cyber security, artificial intelligence, etc. These skills can be readily transferable to roles within the executive wing of the company, thereby advancing their career opportunities beyond the customer service level.

Each of these four pillars signal to future employees that McDonalds is thinking about their long-term career health and not just about what they can do to help the company make a dollar today. More companies should adopt similar plans as a retention tool if they want to remain competitive in the near future and beyond.


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