There Are No Limits: A Conversation with Jennifer Rafuse

Published on : 3/22/24
  • Rafuse.jpgAfter spending over 15 years in hotel and restaurant operations, Jennifer Rafuse embarked on a new adventure in the live events industry. In 2008, she made a significant career shift, joining Sodexo Live! as a coordinator at the Vancouver Convention Centre, just in time to contribute to the preparations for the 2010 Winter Olympics. After moving up the ladder into management as a director of catering and general manager, she became a regional vice president responsible for overseeing the British Columbia market.

    In this interview, Jennifer discusses the evolution of the food services industry for women over the past decade, her advice to young women starting in the industry, and her passion for mentoring and empowering women through Dress for Success.

    Interviewer: How has our industry evolved for women over the past ten years?

    Rafuse: All my mentors have been men. However, I've witnessed a remarkable shift in this dynamic in the last ten years, with organizations firmly committed to enabling and promoting gender equality. This change has significantly altered the landscape of the food services industry. The industry is evolving, and I believe this shift is just the beginning.

    Gender diversity is not just about being 'fair' and 'right'; it's a catalyst for better organizational performance. It brings a variety of perspectives, experiences, and ideas to the table, leading to more innovative and effective solutions. I'm proud to work for Sodexo Live!. It's a very large organization, but it's evident that they genuinely care about their people, diversity, inclusion, and equity. They don't just talk about these values but actually practice them.

    Interviewer: Explain your relationship with Dress for Success.

    Rafuse: Mentoring is an incredibly rewarding experience.  I am grateful to have collaborated with Dress for Success Vancouver’s Professional Women’s Group (PWG) program as a mentor.  Dress for Success is a worldwide organization that pairs women in need of mentorship with experienced individuals who can assist them in their career development journey.  The objective is to discuss short- and long-term goals, personal and professional challenges, and strategies to enable individuals to thrive in all aspects of their lives. 

    One of the things I love most about the PWG program is that it's not just about supporting women in finding jobs or advancing their careers. It's about empowering women to be their best selves, both personally and professionally.

    Interviewer: What advice would you give to young women starting in the industry?

    Rafuse: With the right attitude, drive, motivation, and goals, there are no limits to what you can achieve in this industry. Your thoughts and opinions are not just welcome; they are crucial. By voicing them, you can secure a seat at the table and contribute to the industry's growth and evolution. Your unique perspective is what will drive innovation and change.

    Love what you do, have integrity, be passionate, and stay positive in the face of challenges. When you do face failure, embrace it as a learning opportunity. Every setback is a chance to learn and improve.