Customers place their orders at the counters inside a Yum! Brands Inc. KFC restaurant in Shanghai, China. - Qilai Shen / Bloomberg Customers place their orders at the counters inside a Yum! Brands Inc. KFC restaurant in Shanghai, China. - Qilai Shen / Bloomberg
Chains

Yum China’s Female-Led Executive Ranks

Of the 450,000 staff employed by Yum China Holdings Inc., half of the managers are women. As is the company’s chief executive officer, Joey Wat.

The 47-year-old mother of one, who helms China’s biggest fast-food chain and is one of just 24 female CEOs among Fortune 500 companies, doesn’t think that’s a coincidence.

“Bias and sexism runs deep” and having role models help, according to the Fujian-province native.

Yum China runs an open and transparent promotion process where a panel of managers vet every candidate, she said. “Whenever women are in a system that emphasizes meritocracy, we won’t do too badly.”

Shanghai-based Yum China, in fact, has a reverse diversity issue: too few men in some departments. Wat says the company, which operates over 8,400 KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell outlets in the largest Asian economy, is making an effort to correct that. Overall, 60 percent of its workers are women.

Ask her about juggling responsibilities at home and at work and she is quick to pick the tougher task. “Being a working mum by far is the biggest challenge in life,” said Wat. “Even more challenging than being a CEO.”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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