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This year, the theme of International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias. Gender parity doesn’t just happen in society. It relies on us coming together and being proactive about improving the opportunities that women have – and deserve – in the world.

At Mad Mex we care a great deal about being a positive and proactive part of the solution, and so we actively support women through the workplace. That goes for our luchadores that serve you when you drop into our restaurants, right up to the highest levels of our executive team. Our aim is to guide and mentor the incredible women that we are so privileged to work with and provide them with every opportunity to develop incredible careers with us. Careers that have no ceiling nor limitation.

We also firmly believe in giving female entrepreneurs every opportunity to succeed. 40% of our franchisees are women, and they’re running some of our most popular and successful restaurants.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we wanted to share some of the stories of the women that we are so privileged to have in the Mad Mex familia.

Tamara Dass, Regional Operations Manager

Tamara is one of our leading regional operations managers (ROM). She’s always had an interest in the food business, and a talent for it, having managed fast food restaurants from the age of just 19.

“I am so passionate about the people that I work with,” she said. “I still get goosebumps when I see the kids that I hired when they were 16 start to run their own restaurants.”

“Working in this industry isn’t easy, and not many people get to 20+ years. But this has always been the space for me. My first job was at the very minimum age, at 14 years and nine months, and I’ve never looked back. I’ve needed to have resilience at times, but the benefit is that I’ve always had independence in working in the space.”

Over the last twenty years, Tamara has watched as the industry has undergone some big changes, from being a very male-dominated sector, to becoming one of the finest opportunities for women, at all levels. “It has been great to see the food industry become motivated by diversity,” Tamara said. “At all levels – including upper management – it’s not so heavily male-dominated now. In fact, over half (56%) of our support office are women and I’m proof of the kind of career development opportunities that we can take from that opportunity.”

As Tamara – who has worked for so much of the business, from running corporate restaurants through to being responsible for the whole of the NSW region – so amply demonstrates, Mad Mex has a proactive approach to engaging women and allowing their talents drive their personal and career goals success. Some of the other ways that Mad Mex has supported women include:

  • Accommodating female managers with flexible working hours after maternity leave.
  • Fabulous female mentors. Not only Tamara, but women that come into the organisation can draw inspiration and insight from many active mentors, including, Therese Frangie, our COO, Laura Tobey our National Learning and Development Manager, Emily Van Wessem our People & Culture Manager and Julie Spring our Advisory Board Member & People Culture Coach!

Yuke Yaponike, Business Manager

Yuke is one of Mad Mex’s super-talented business managers. Like Tamara, she has found the independence and confidence afforded by a career in the food industry to be one of the appeals of working at Mad Mex. With nearly one third (29%) of Mad Mex corporate restaurant managers being women, Yuke has been able to capitalise on the opportunity that Mad Mex provides people to step up and take responsibility.

“At the MacArthur restaurant that I manage, for a few years we didn’t have a grill guy… but we did have a grill girl and the restaurant ran so well!” People usually assume that the grill shift is going to be run by a male. It’s a critical job, but a physically demanding one due to the exposure to heat across the entire shift. Mad Mex hires people who want to work on the grill, regardless of their gender, and we’re all better off for that.”

“I love that I can do my job well, and the restaurant doesn’t rely on male figures or leadership.”

“Mad Mex has allowed me to take on more responsibilities, and they back me, knowing that I’m capable of doing the job. Now I don’t only run a restaurant, but I also coach and train people, assist with opening new restaurants, and I can provide feedback on products that we’re trialling.”

Yuke is also a supermum, leading the success of Mad Mex in her area, while also being the parent of two children! It’s never easy to strike a balance across all these work and life priorities, but not only does Yuke manage… she thrives. In 2020, she was awarded the Cheeky Award at the Mad Mex Golden Burritos for the many and varied talents that she brings into the company.

Kim Swaney, Franchisee Mad Mex Miranda

Mad Mex aims to empower our Franchisees in their careers, providing them the opportunity to be a business leader and entrepreneur while also benefitting from the support of a national business.

Kim is one of the great success stories of this approach. As the Franchisee of the Miranda restaurant, she has driven the restaurant to become one of the hotspots of the local community. As one glowing, five-star review put it: “Fresh ingredients, made on the spot. Really polite counter staff and can see the manager (Kim) was working in the background to ensure everything was running smoothly.”

For Kim’s part, the thrill of working at Mad Mex has to do with the confidence that it gives its female employees:

“Being a success in business has to do with confidence”

“It’s important to take pride in what I do and have confidence in my skills even in the face of difficult challenges. It’s also important to support my fellow businesswomen. Everyone deserves a chance at success, and if you can help others achieve that by supporting them, then you have achieved something great.

“Mad Mex were very supportive with building my confidence when I initially stepped into a Franchisee role. Now I run my business day-to-day knowing the support team and our ROM’s will always be there if needed but fully confident in my own. From all this we are achieving something great by building the Mad Mex brand together.”

Roshni Karki, Luchador

Roshni is proof of how Mad Mex enables women to break down barriers, and allows talent to overcome the gender bias. She was one of the first females in the organisation to work on the grill (a job previously perceived to be a male-only task), and now, thanks to her success, Mad Mex’s network of restaurants is filled with women running this all-important task.

“Women are more hospitable in nature, more caring, and meticulous at their service, which helps hospitality industry to lift the standard at every level. At Mad Mex, I have been given the opportunity to build my career by enhancing my interpersonal skills, communication skills and problem-solving skills.”

Therese Frangie, Chief Operating Officer

Therese is the Mad Mex COO – second-in-command to the entire company. Like Tamara, Therese also commenced her career in QSR aged 15, driven by a passion and love for the food industry. Having worked at a wide range of popular restaurant chains, she moved to Mad Mex as the general manager of operations in 2017, and her talents were quickly recognised and she was promoted to COO.

And, like Yuke, she’s a supermum, leading the company from the front while also being the role model to three young girls and inspiring other women in Mad Mex who want a career in the Restaurant industry, yet don’t want to miss out on having a family.

“I was fortunate in that I had some great senior female mentors, and they both inspired and encouraged me to smash through the glass ceiling with my own career,”

“At Mad Mex we encourage you to bring your whole selves to work. I was fortunate to become part of this company where I could find female mentors. That’s not always the case, and I benefitted from their guidance, so I am thrilled that I can now give back in kind.”

Therese added that Mad Mex has been particularly good for elevating the voices of women as a direct result of the culture that it drives from the top. “We can’t just communicate once, it needs to be ongoing,” she said. “Mad Mex helps you achieve your visions by promoting an open environment where you can talk about what’s working, and what isn’t without fear of judgement.”

That openness and flexibility is also why Mad Mex has proven to be such a strong employer of parents, Therese said. “It’s core to the very values of Mad Mex that we support mums to return as soon as they wish to,” she said. “Some may want 12 months, others 12 weeks. We always check and don’t assume, but rather we communicate and agree. There are people needs and business needs, and through comfortable open communication both can be met.”

The underlying message of #BreakTheBias is that it’s a story of opportunity. Giving women the opportunity to take ownership of their careers and successes means backing them to thrive, from the start of their careers right through to holding senior leadership roles. It’s not a story of quotas, but rather making sure that across the whole of the environment, the structures and opportunities are there that any individual can take control of their own destiny.

So much of the culture that you love about Mad Mex comes from the women that lend us their talents, and we remain firmly committed to giving all individuals every opportunity, at every level.