Women: Taking the Lead | International Franchise Association

Women: Taking the Lead



IFA committee focuses on the importance of women in leadership at franchises.


By Marisa Faunce


Women own approximately one-third of franchised businesses, and a growing percentage of franchised businesses have female leadership in place. As these numbers grow and as more women become involved in various roles within the franchise industry, it is imperative that women have a place to network, share ideas and mentor others. The mission of IFA’s Women’s Franchise Committee, which was formed in 1996, is to “empower leaders in franchising by promoting women’s participation in the industry and providing international networking opportunities for the exchange of ideas, resources, and experiences.” We do this in three primary ways:



1). The Leadership Conference


The WFC hosts a five-hour Leadership Conference every year at the IFA Convention. The Leadership Conference consistently achieves the top ratings of any program at the convention as our attendees highly value the key takeaways that they glean from the program. With top leaders in franchising serving as keynote and panel speakers, we are confident that our attendees will learn valuable lessons that they can implement in their own businesses. We have had great success in attracting speakers who are willing to share their experiences – the highs and the lows – so that attendees can learn from their triumphs as well as their mistakes.


“Women own approximately one-third of franchised businesses.”



One highlight of the Leadership Conference is the case study, where roundtable groups investigate challenging issues faced by a mystery franchisor and devise strategies that the franchisor could take to rectify the situation. When the franchisor is revealed, attendees hear from one of its leaders to learn how they navigated the challenge. Working in teams on the case study also provides a key networking opportunity. It is important to note that the Leadership Conference is not just for women, it’s for anyone looking to become a stronger leader. We are busy working on the program for the 2019 Leadership Conference, and recommend registering early since space in the program is limited and typically sells out.



2). Local Women’s Franchise Network Meetings


Our annual Leadership Conference messages are reinforced throughout the year at the local level through Women’s Franchise Network meetings. There are currently 18 chapters throughout the country where inspiring female franchise leaders coordinate, bringing wisdom and leadership to franchisees, franchisors and suppliers year-round. It’s also a great way to visit other franchise locations, as WFN meetings are often hosted at a committee member’s company headquarters or onsite at a franchise business. If you are interested in participating in a WFN near you, visit franchise.org/women-in-franchising and contact the chairwomen of your local WFN. We are also interested in expanding WFN meetings to new cities, so please contact me at mfaunce@plavekoch.com if you would like to get involved.



3). Community Outreach


Through WFN meetings, we’ve coordinated with the Dress for Success Organization to help women in local markets prepare for their careers. The mission of Dress for Success is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and development tools to help them thrive in work and life. We feel these are our next business leaders, and we want to be a part of supporting them in any way we can.



How can we collectively raise awareness about women’s issues?


Women are incredible leaders who can – and do – add tremendous value to any business. Thus, be mindful of the women in your organization. Consider how you can guide other female leaders and give them a full seat at the table. We can raise the level of female leadership by setting the right example and creating opportunities for women to participate in a meaningful way. A strong person in a leadership role who pays it forward and mentors future female leaders is invaluable. Take a hard look at your organization, including pay gaps, hiring practices, and advancement opportunities to management roles, and start discussing these issues openly. Look for opportunities to advocate for gender equality in workplace policies and laws. Everyone can make a difference here.



“A strong person in a leadership role who pays it forward and mentors future female leaders is invaluable.”



If you are a female in the workforce looking to advance your career, look for ways to help yourself. Dedicate time for your personal and professional development. Seek out and meet new leaders, both men and women, whom you can mentor and who can mentor you in your growth and goals. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, guidance and mentorship. You’d be surprised how willing leaders in franchising are to help. All members of the WFC are advocates of giving their time to help others. In fact, we realize that we often get just as much out of helping other female leaders as we give of ourselves.



How can other IFA members get involved with the committee?


Make it a point to attend and support our Leadership Conference at every IFA Convention and bring key members of your team. The takeaways will most certainly come back to your organization tenfold. If you have a company that would serve as a good case study or if you know a leader that would be a great speaker, please reach out to us. We also encourage you to get involved at a local level if you have a WFN chapter near you. It’s such a great way to keep your networking and leadership skills alive and growing throughout the year. Even better, consider hosting a WFN event at your headquarters – we are always looking for new venues.


"Be mindful of the women in your organization.”


The WFC is strong and committed to achieving our annual goals. We meet regularly and expect people to show up and work hard, so our selection process is measured and the list of applicants is long. We also have a lot of fun and create lasting friendships. If you are a female leader and have an interest in serving on the Women’s Franchise Committee in the future, please contact IFA’s Andie Snider at asnider@franchise.org for an application. If you have the drive to participate, complete the application, show up at local WFN events and conferences, and let us know you have a passion to contribute. We look forward to getting you involved!



Marisa Faunce is a Partner at PlaveKoch and the Chair of the IFA Women’s Franchising Committee. Find out more about PlaceKoch at franchise.org/plave-koch-plc-supplier.