Growing up in a diverse and eclectic community taught Wendy Lewis that diversity can influence how we think, feel, and act. “How I was raised is what provided the foundation for my career,” says Lewis, the global chief diversity officer and vice president of Global Community Engagement for McDonald’s. Before she joined McDonald’s, Lewis spent nearly 30 years at Major League Baseball, where she created MLB’s Diversity Business Summit to attract a diverse workforce and supplier community. Lewis spoke with Diversity Woman about how D&I is evolving.
Diversity Woman: Why did you choose to work at
Wendy Lewis: I have always admired the legacy of McDonald’s diversity and inclusion, and commitment to communities. It’s a fascinating business model—what we call the three-legged stool—which comprises the company, franchisees, and suppliers. You have all the major buckets to sink into and elevate for the organization and can have impact at scale, both within the business and beyond.
DW: Could you explain the Diversity IS Inclusion philosophy and share some successes?
WL: I have always lived by that statement, and it is something I have been proud to implement at McDonald’s. Diversity is inclusion, and we must embrace a mind-set and bold value proposition in which all individuals feel that their culture, identity, and experience are valued.
One of our biggest successes has been the company’s Food for Thought: Beyond Bias education platform. Its overarching objective is to offer an education experience where everyone is aware of their unique ability to create delicious, feel-good moments for our customers and develop relationships with colleagues that inspire increased collaboration that drives business growth.
DW: What are some successes in D&I in the last couple of years?
WL: Professionals are beginning to keep an eye on [artificial intelligence] and how its use impacts the treatment of people—for better and worse—and we will need to do more of that. If we don’t, we will see societal biases getting much worse. At McDonald’s, we have partnered with Textio and are using its augmented writing platform to develop gender-neutral job descriptions. By using technology in this way, we are making sure that we are using inclusive language in order to attract the most qualified and diverse candidates.
DW: What is the No. 1 thing companies can do to advance women into the C-suite?
WL: We need to evaluate the whole development and support pipeline for women at all levels; identify gaps and come up with realistic and bold action plans to solve them; and realize that while the exact reasons that women aren’t being promoted to manager from an entry-level position aren’t the same as a woman joining the C-suite, they all begin from inequities of opportunity.
DW: What will be the most pressing challenges in D&I over the next five years?
WL: People, people, people. More specifically, though, it’s going to be the intersection of people, technology, and equity. Regardless of all the wonderful things we achieve, if we don’t figure out how to create empowerment, advocacy, and opportunity for all, we will fail. We will need to understand and become more equalized if we are really going to tackle the issues impacting people in the future. It’s an exciting time to be with such a beloved brand, but it comes with an enormous amount of social responsibility and commitment to people.