Choose to Challenge: Melanie Bootes, Chief Legal Officer at KFC US

The firm values our partnerships with clients to address diversity and equity. Melanie Bootes, Chief Legal Officer at KFC U.S. shares how they are meeting the challenge to create a more equitable environment for women in business.

In your experience, how have efforts within outside counsel relationships shifted over the years toward creating a more equitable environment for women in business, and how does it impact your business?

The legal world is definitely changing for the better, and it has been incredible and uplifting to see the changing faces in both law firms and in house law departments in recent years. Though we are a mighty and nimble law department at KFC U.S., we’re relatively small and depend on outside counsel’s expertise in many areas. We want relationships with outside counsel who bring not only legal expertise but also a commercial lens on the law. And like the diversity among our employees, our franchisees, and customers, it is our hope to work with outside counsel who also reflect that diversity. Working with outside counsel who share our core values ensures we get the best guidance and advice, which can only come from an ability to see the world from many different angles. The skill it takes to multitask, prioritize issues, and actively listen are vital for an attorney and skills that we greatly value from outside counsel at KFC U.S.  Because those skills are so important to an in house lawyer, it naturally has to be important to outside counsel if they want to be competitive. 

How is KFC internally meeting the challenge to become more strategic and collaborative to make equity for women a priority mission?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion for all people have always been a commitment at Yum! Brands and KFC U.S. We have made public commitments to support that, including signing onto the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion and establishing a target to advance more women into leadership in senior roles globally by 2030. Never more so than now have these efforts been so important. We recognize that a diverse workforce jumpstarts creativity, innovation, satisfaction, and productivity, which is just good business overall. And, we’ve been intentional about promoting diversity from setting up monthly “kick-starting the conversation” dinners with senior women leaders and upcoming women leaders across KFC U.S. and Yum! Brands to organizing Empower hours where women can connect with senior leaders in the organization to holding “Lean in” chats and our first ever EmpowHER, a conference aimed at increasing female representation among our KFC franchisees. It’s not just formal and structured events we are interested in though.  Our business is empowered by women role models lifting up other women by being truth-tellers and advocates in our everyday work lives and, frankly, by just having a seat at the table. A young woman starting out in her career who has an opportunity to see women in roles of leadership then can often see herself in roles of leadership. At KFC, we are doing that.