Meat Your Markets By Mack Graves
Mack Graves has worked in animal-food proteins for the past 39 years, specializing in corporate strategy, management focus and marketing effectiveness across the protein chain.

“Woman, I can hardly express, my mixed emotions at my thoughtlessness” - John Lennon

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)

Three years ago, November 26, 2015, to be exact, I wrote a Meatingplace blog asking, “Why aren’t there more women serving as CEOs and presidents of our meat and poultry companies?”

As the source for that question, I had done a brief survey of the top eight meat and poultry companies and whom they listed as top management.

I did that same survey this week and found similar results.  Not one of the top eight companies listed in the National Provisioner’s 2018 Top 100 Processors had a woman as a CEO/President.  Six had women on their boards of directors (usually 2 or 3 out of 9 to 11 total board members), but two had no women.

In fact, of the top 100 processors, none listed a woman as a president or CEO.

This is misogyny of a surreptitious order within our industry and we need to root it out and eliminate it.

Usually, the women listed in the top management of the companies I surveyed filled positions such as human resources VP/Manager or as corporate counsel.  One, Tyson Foods, listed a woman as Group President of their Prepared Foods division.  Maybe her next step will be CEO/president of Tyson.

Why do I again scold our industry for its lack of women in the top management position of the top meat and poultry companies in the United States or of having greater representation on their boards?

Simple, I want to sell more meat and poultry, and it has been my experience that woman know how to do that better than men.  Further, I have found that women are better managers of food companies than men.  See two examples below.  But, it’s been three years and no women have been promoted to the top of our largest meat and poultry companies!

I only hope that the smaller companies in our industry are more progressive with regard to hiring and promoting women to their top positions.  However, four companies control nearly 80 percent of all the beef marketed in the United States, thus my reason for challenging them.

There needs to be a concerted effort within our meat and poultry companies to attract, train and promote women in preparation for the top management position.  However, the lack of equal gender representation on boards and the lack of a woman in the top position in the largest meat and poultry companies would seem to belie any effort to find and promote women. 

As a comparison, what representation do women hold elsewhere in our society?

Recently there are an increasing number of women physicians, lawyers and those earning Ph.D.’s in the technical and science fields.  Compared to 25 years ago, there are more women on the Supreme Court and in the US Congress.  Why not in our industry?

In my view, this lack of women in our top companies is a transcendent meat and poultry marketing issue.  If we expect to grow our protein businesses in the 21st century, we need to have more women running these companies.

Please remember, a woman still usually makes the food purchase decisions in our society.  Who better to understand this fact, develop programs to satisfy these needs, adjust a company’s priorities, goals and strategies and provide direction to these companies than a woman?

But, it is much, much more than just women designing marketing programs.  It is women causing our industry to advance and sell more meat and poultry because these companies will be better managed and more successful.

Examples of women leading large successful food companies would include Irene Rosenfeld, CEO Kraft Foods.  Appointed in 2006, she has helped Kraft revitalize itself with acquisitions.  Indra Nooyi, appointed CEO of PepsiCo in 2007 has led it to surpass Coca Cola in market value for the first time in 112 years.  And, there are others.

Maybe a precursor to more women in meat company leadership is the selection of Julie Anna Potts as the North American Meat Institute’s (NAMI) CEO, which carries on the NAMI governance tradition started by Rosemary Mucklow.  We can only hope.


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