Renae Scott has climbed the corporate ladder, serving as CMO of San Francisco–based Togo’s Eateries for the past seven years. Even with a view from the top, she can still see a gender gap in both the corporate and foodservice worlds. Much has changed since Scott began her career, but the advice she received back then is still relevant today—for both young women and men.
“When I started out 20 years ago, the one key to success that I was told and embraced [was] as a marketer, you should quickly align with an operations person,” she says. “Those were really the two roles that would help a woman succeed in marketing; you avoided a lot of land mines.”
Back then, Scott and her first counterpart were both field reps; now Scott is in a top marketing position while her colleague became a senior leader in operations at Carl’s Jr.
With technology playing such an integral component in any business, Scott adds an addendum to this advice: Buddy up with someone in IT, too. Recently, Togo’s launched an online ordering platform, which features a loyalty program and could soon accept ApplePay. Building and then promoting the platform was a joint project for IT and marketing, and Scott says one component could not succeed without the other.
While counterparts in different departments need not be other women, Scott says support and encouragement from other women have helped female employees rise together.
“I do think that the barriers are being broken down when women are supported by other women and speak courageously and respectfully,” she says.
Compared to men, women can be less proactive in speaking their minds, especially when they’re junior employees, she says. As a result, Scott implemented a three-month active growth plan for her young staffers. Through this program, junior marketers explore different facets of the marketing department such as public relations and advertising; listen in on conference calls with other departments; and reach out to executives across the company.
“Just ask for 10 minutes of their time and come up with questions,” she says, adding that the questions should be about something that genuinely interests the young employee rather than something that is meant to impress the executive.
Joining conference calls can also broaden young workers’ vision of the company. “It’s okay to invite yourself in. … If you see something that interests you, sit in on that call,” Scott adds.
Other departments at Togo’s have not yet adopted Scott’s active growth plan, but as she points out, marketing has the most junior-level employees (14 women and one man). Including Scott and the other marketing director, the department numbers 16; seven years ago, it was a team of two. The advent of social media and engagement channels like Facebook explain the department’s tremendous growth—and its high percentage of young staffers.
“Allowing people to have growth opportunities helps them get the most value,” Scott says.
By Nicole Duncan