Career Pathways and Opportunities for Women in the Service Industry

Career Pathways and Opportunities for Women in the Service Industry

Women are powerful leaders in the business community. In celebration of Women’s History Month, Path Forward is highlighting career pathways for women in the service industry and recognizing female leaders in restaurant and retail businesses.

  • 61 percent of women have worked in the restaurant industry, and one in three women got their first job in a restaurant.
  • Among women who are current and former retail employees 60 percent believe their retail position teaches/taught them valuable skills they can use in other fields.
  • 92 percent of women who have worked in a restaurant say the industry is a good place to get a first job and learn.
  • 54 percent of retail employees in management or professional occupations are women and 45 percent of restaurant managers are women (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; NRA Press Release: See How Dynamic Women are Leading the Restaurant Industry).  
  • 50% of all restaurant owners are women, and the number of women-owned restaurant businesses increased 40% between 2007 and 2012.

Women Leading the Way in the Industry

Jessica Herrin, Founder and CEO of Stella & Dot Family Brands

At the age of 24, Jessica Herrin co-founded one of today’s leading wedding sites,, and that was just the first spark of her creativity and leadership skills. Years later, Herrin went on to establish Stella & Dot, an online and home-based jewelry line focused on empowering women in their careers and helping them look good while doing it. Her vision for the company called for a new concept that would guarantee women flexibility, style and convenience. In 2010, Herrin started the Stella & Dot Foundation, raising more than $2 million towards creating positive change in women’s lives through education and economic empowerment.

Danielle DiFerdinando, Designer/Creative Director of Danielle Nicole

Growing up, Danielle DiFerdinando worked at her father’s restaurant and learned many skills, including interacting with customers and creative thinking. While interning at Bergdorf Goodman, she struck up a conversation with a cosmetics buyer who complimented her on a purse of her own design, which led to her eventual handbag and jewelry line. Her handbags are now sold in major retailers worldwide, including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s.

Malaika Marks, Owner of Bucketheadz Southern Home Cookin’ and Trinity’s Treats Custom Dessert Studio

Malaika Marks is a United States Air Force veteran, military spouse and master cake designer. As the current owner of a restaurant and dessert studio in Albuquerque, NM, Marks takes pride in serving her community with made-from-scratch desserts and southern home cooking. Marks is committed to the idea that “we are blessed so that we may be a blessing to others,” making her career in the service industry a worthwhile experience for not only herself, but everyone she serves.

Emily Biederman, Chief Operating Officer of Secret Sauce F&B

Emily Biederman started off in the restaurant industry as a hostess to make extra money in college where she discovered her love for restaurants through the “dynamic spirit” of her fellow staff members and the guests she served. “Through mentorship I learned what it means to do business the right way- not just to make money but to be a positive community member.” Now Biederman is the Chief Operating Officer at Secret Sauce F&B in Colorado.

(Sources: “Restaurant Industry Pocket Factbook,” 2015; “Retail’s Value On A Resume,” June 2015; Survey: “Who Works In The Restaurant Industry,” October-November 2013)