Most of us can agree that we work in one of the greatest industries. Relationships are still important in foodservice because they are important to the people in it. One area where we can make progress is diversity.

Gary ThiakosGary Thiakos, President, Zepole Supply Co., Bolingbrook, Ill.This industry traditionally has been a male dominated one, even today. It can be argued why, but for many, like myself, we simply grew up in the industry with this disproportion. Things are changing because talent cannot be ignored.

I am fortunate in that this exact scenario plays out before me every day. In my own company, our general manager and heads of accounting and information technology are all women. In addition, we have women in sales and project management roles, who overcome challenges and earn respect because of who they are on a daily basis. It would be disingenuous of me to say having women in these key positions was part of some master plan. That’s not the case. The truth of the matter is their talents earned them a seat at the table.

But examples like this extend beyond my front door. For example, Pride, of which the buying group my company is a member, named a woman CEO a few years ago. Pride also had its first woman voted into the board of directors recently. The good news is that we are starting to see more instances like this in other companies, too. One can only hope it will continue.

The mindset that new generations of foodservice employees bring goes beyond the numbers. They are not only talented but committed to always doing the right thing for the company, the customer, and everyone up and down the supply chain.

Members of the new generation offer a level of respect and a commitment to going beyond what we have always done. That’s because these new generations of foodservice leaders are unencumbered by the past. This allows them to cultivate and share fresh perspectives about technology, adding value, treating each other with respect, and more. The people who approach foodservice with new ideas are true rock stars and if we are not looking to them for solutions, we are missing the boat. These are the people who will ultimately unite the channel.

As stakeholders, the challenge we face is making the industry more attractive to these newer generations and welcoming their unique thoughts and perspectives.

Two of our staff were selected to attend a youth industry leaders conference last year, and they were two of four women in attendance. While it was an honor to participate in such an event, moving forward we need to take the steps to ensure greater diversity among the participants. This industry is the greatest because of the people in it, but we need to keep investing in more women like those mentioned before and people from other backgrounds because in the future they will be the reason why this industry still will be the greatest.

The foodservice industry remains an ever-changing one and very competitive. If there are resources out there that we are not tapping into, then we are not evolving with the industry. Given the pace of change, everyone in the foodservice industry needs all the good ideas and perspectives we can get. Other ideas and other ways of thinking can only help us move the industry forward to better serve our shared customer – the consumer.