Last month, our own Laura Zaino, Director of Zaino Food Sales and Marketing UK, was interviewed by the Italian Chamber of Commerce to share her view about the challenges for women working in the food industry, a typical men’s sector.
What it’s like to be a woman in the food industry, and how to build your food business?
LZ: ‘Being a woman in the food industry can be rewarding and challenging. While the industry has traditionally been male-dominated, there has been a significant shift in recent years, with more women entering and excelling in various roles within the food sector. I have been fortunate enough to join the family business with the opportunity to grow my responsibilities and function, but I could benefit from a bit of flexibility when it was necessary. The path to becoming a managing director was not straightforward, and I believe there are a couple of important points that helped me more than anything else to grow as a professional and grow the family business. Building the right team can make a massive difference, and inclusion plays a strategic role.
What is the core value of your business?
LZ: People Are Core, And Inclusion Is Key! People are indeed the core of any business, including the food industry. Creating an inclusive environment that values diversity and promotes equal opportunities is crucial for the success and growth of your food business.
Every employee should be aware of their impact on the business and how their commitment to work, colleagues, customers, and the workplace makes a difference in the company’s growth. I have learnt that involving all of them with a quick morning chat or phone call makes the difference.
I believe employee training is also very important. ZainoFood’s mission is to give restaurant owners and chefs the best pieces of advice and suggestions to buy the best products required. For this reason, all our employees are trained to know the products very well as we are aiming to become business partners with our customers. We need passionate and qualified employees.
Having the responsibility of running a company is not easy, but with the right people, it can be much easier.
What are you proud of implementing in Zaino Food?
LZ: Eleven years ‘ago, when I started in the family business, there were very few women. I firmly believe that the candidate should be employed based on skills and commitment rather than to cover a gap. I also believe there is still a long way to go to enable women to put themselves forward for male-dominated job opportunities. At ZainoFood, we have women working even in operations or as drivers, reaching 30% of female representative employees. Much progress has been made, but we still have a long way to go. Having a diverse work environment is definitely beneficial; new and young generations can bring a breath of fresh air, whilst old employees have a key role in passing on company values and know-how. Women in a male environment bring more serenity and, at least in our depot, higher hygiene standards.
Last but not least, I believe that by fostering an environment where everyone feels welcome and respected, you can attract talented individuals, foster creativity, and build a strong and loyal team. As a business owner, setting a good example to the team is really important, for example being on time, respecting colleagues and customers, and listening to colleagues’ feedback whether it is positive or negative.
I Wish I Knew…
LZ: I wish I knew the secret to success it is a recipe with many ingredients: perseverance, patience, determination, and the people that support you and believe in you.
Recently, I attended the 20th reunion of my high school class, and sadly, I realized that most of the talented girls in the group had to compromise their professional careers to prioritise their families, whereas most of the boys were covering important roles with high responsibilities.
I realise I am in a privileged position, but I also realise that I had the people around me who trusted my skills, believed in me and my ideas and supported and shared the journey daily with me. Therefore, if I had to say what helped me in this journey, I would say, besides my motivation, the team.
I am always aware that building a food business requires dedication, perseverance, and a passion for the industry. With the right mindset, skills, and strategic approach, you can overcome challenges and achieve success as a woman in the food industry.