Besides running Jack, Lang helps oversee California’s 23-university system as an appointee to the state’s University Board of Trustees. She credits her rise as a businesswoman to the support of mentors and her own willingness to seize opportunity when it arose, something she recommends to anyone looking to make headway in the restaurant industry.
“This can be difficult because it may involve moving to a position outside of their comfort zone,” Lang says, “but the learning and development will be helpful as they move up in the organization.”
To women specifically, Lang adds another recommendation.
“I would also encourage women to pursue recreational interests, like golf,” she says. The sport is “mentally challenging, fun, humbling and a great way to … really get to know your business partners.”
“The corporate world is not yet gender neutral,” Lang says, pointing out the low percentage of women in California’s “executive suites and boardrooms.” But she says her gender never hindered her own career.
“I don’t think being a woman made it any more difficult to become CEO,” she says. “Throughout my career I worked hard to build trust and credibility among everyone I worked with.”
President of McDonald’s USA
Jan Fields began her McDonald’s career as a 23-year-old fry cook and now oversees 14,000 Mickey D’s and hundreds of thousands of employees in the U.S.
Since joining McDonald’s more than 30 years ago, she has worked at all levels of the quick-serve giant, including executive vice president and COO—the first woman to hold that position in McDonald’s history. Along the way she received the Women Operators Network Recognition Award and the Women’s Leadership Award, and she was named to Forbes’ World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list in 2008 and again in 2009.
“Although the early years were more challenging because there were fewer women in leadership positions, throughout my career at McDonald’s I have received the support of colleagues,” says Fields, whose advice to others in the industry is to give your current job, no matter the title, your best effort.
Fields has been credited with McDonald’s foray into the specialty coffee market and, according to the company’s CEO Jim Skinner, she “epitomizes the very best values of [the McDonald’s] system,” explaining that Fields’ commitment to franchising, continuous improvement, and putting customers at the center of everything the company does has helped drive customer satisfaction and value for the brand.
“Jan has been my trusted colleague in leading our U.S. system,” Skinner says, “and I know she has the complete respect and total support of our owner-operators, suppliers, and staff.”
While Fields’ accomplishments at McDonald’s make her one of the top decision makers in the industry (male or female), her greatest achievement may still lay before her. In 2007, Crain’s Chicago Business said, “She could be the strongest female contender yet for the McDonald’s CEO spot.”
CEO of AFC Enterprises, Inc., and President of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen
In 1993, Cheryl Bachelder was hired by Tom Monaghan to be vice president of marketing and product development for Domino’s. “I was drawn to the opportunity to work for Tom, market a great brand, and learn the retail food business,” she says.
It was a first for both parties—the first quick-serve team Bachelder had ever joined, and the first female executive that Monaghan had ever hired. But now, more than 25 years later, Bachelder is CEO of AFC Enterprises, Inc., and president of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen (she was appointed to the position in 2007). During her time with the company, she has reinvigorated the Popeyes brand with a new marketing campaign, a new logo, and several new product launches, among other initiatives. But her impact on the quick-serve industry began before she was chosen to head the company.
In 2004, she published a research study based on Gallup data that proved staffs made up of 50 percent men and 50 percent women deliver the highest performance results. "I've always believed that teams with different experiences, skills, and perspectives would generate the best results," she says. "I also believe that women perform the best when there are more than one of them in a room."
In 2009, Bachelder was appointed to the board of directors for the National Restaurant Association, where she hopes to help cultivate the next generation of industry leaders—whether they're male or female.
Chief Marketing Officer of Jamba Juice
Not many quick serves can count Kate Hudson and the Kardashian sisters as fans. But Jamba Juice can—thanks in large part to the health-conscious image that Susan Shields helped the brand cultivate. Shields has been the company’s chief marketing officer since November 2009 and was its vice president of consumer products, licensing, and growth initiatives before that.