5 Things We Need To Do To Close The Gender Wage Gap, with Denyelle Bruno and Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis
Nov 18 · 7 min read

Create clear competencies for each role level. Use those competencies to guide ambitious people to the next role (which should have with it, it’s own set of competencies).

As part of my series about “the five things we need to do to close the gender wage gap” I had the pleasure of interviewing Denyelle Bruno. Denyelle is the President and CEO of Tender Greens, a fine-casual West Coast restaurant concept founded in 2006 that puts an elevated spin on the comfort dishes you love. Each of its 30 kitchens nationwide is run by its own chef who holds food to a higher standard. Prior to joining Tender Greens, Denyelle spent 20 years in retail leadership roles, most recently as President of Retail Operations at Drybar. A Los Angeles native, she has worked with some of the most renowned brands including Apple, Peet’s Coffee & Tea and Macy’s to name a few. During her time at Apple, Denyelle was one of a seven-member team asked to create a retail experience for Apple Computer, thus conceptualizing and overseeing the rollout of the first 25 Apple Stores. At Drybar, she opened 55 locations in just three years all while maintaining the company culture and enhancing the entrepreneurial spirit of the business. Denyelle is known for taking brands that are already iconic to best-in-class household names that simply cannot be ignored. Under her stewardship, not only is Tender Greens positioned to grow successfully nationwide, but poised to reach the brand’s higher purpose of transforming lives both within the company and its communities, as well as set the tone for gender diversity in the restaurant space and beyond.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” that brought you to this career path?

After college I took a management role, in retail because it was an easy place to get a job. I needed to start paying back my loans and I thought I’d keep the job until I found something that aligned with my major, which was Social Psychology.

Social psychology is the study of how individuals behave in social environments. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this area of study actually made me especially suited to be successful in retail. Retail/Service and Hospitality are about people selling X to people who are buying X. Understanding the behaviors associated with those exchanges is what has made me successful. All behavior is based on incentives. Anyone who truly understands that will that will be wildly successful in this business.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

It’s more a theme than a story; In the early years of my career, I received a few promotions because my boss was fired. In each instance I asked for the job, one of the times I was given the opportunity just for asking, the other two times I had to prove myself while the company looked for a replacement. In each of those scenarios, I was able to keep the job by working my ass off. I always tell people to raise their hand if they see an opportunity.. Sometimes the “higher ups” might not even know you’re interested. Showing initiative is half the battle.

Can you share a story about the funniest or most interesting mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I wouldn’t call it funny but maybe it’s interesting. I once took a job for a company because I really wanted the title. The truth is, the job actually required less skill and experience than the job I left behind. Though, I think all mistakes are worth making, the moral of the story is not to be too in love with a title or even a salary. Take the next job because it lights your fire and because it pushes you out of your comfort zone.

Ok let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. Even in 2019, women still earn about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. Can you explain three of the main factors that are causing the wage gap?

In a market like this (very low unemployment) there is only one factor. Women need to demand more. I see it every day. Women are more apt to lean toward gratitude while men more often lean towards a sense of self-righteousness. I absolutely hate stereotyping because this is not true of everyone but it does still happen. If more women ask for the moon and the stars, more of them will get the moon and the stars, and now is the time! Talent is very, very hard to find. If you have what it takes, charge a premium for your skillset.

Can you share with our readers what your work is doing to help close the gender wage gap?

I don’t know if it’s affecting the wage gap outside my own organization. I hope it is. At Tender Greens, there is no wage gap. I’m a stickler for wage rates being attached to roles. If you have a certain job, you get paid a certain amount. Sometimes negotiation and experience can have some influence but that hasn’t affected pay equity for us. That said, keeping this topic alive until it’s no longer an issue, will play a big role in solving the problem. At Tender Greens, we are committed to promoting and placing women in 50% of the company’s store leadership by the end of 2020.

Can you recommend 5 things that need to be done on a broader societal level to close the gender wage gap. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Creative titles that are meant to stroke egos but that aren’t recognized in the business community as a whole don’t always benefit those in the role. Things like, Chief Problem Solver won’t translate well on a resume.

2. Use those standardized titles to ensure the pay rate associated with the role is at market rate for the size of the company.

3. Create clear competencies for each role level. Use those competencies to guide ambitious people to the next role (which should have with it, it’s own set of competencies)

4. Create transparent career paths so that everyone starts with the same information.

5. Truly understand that diversity has a positive correlation to innovation and inevitably financial success for the organization.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

This is going to sound insane but my movement would be about surnames. I continue to be shocked by the number of wildly successful women I meet who have changed their last name to their husband’s name. I don’t know why this is still the case but I haven’t heard a reason yet that makes sense to me. At the end of the day if this is the “go to” behavior then we’re accepting that women are second class to men, period. There are lots and lots of creative ways to keep family history alive but most people still decide (for whatever reason) that it’s not worth going there. In my mind this is one of the last bastions of equal rights.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Live life so hard that it makes you cry”. I love this quote because it evokes the simple idea that life needs to be lived. I believe this to my core… I’m either all in or all out. If I can’t be all in then it’s not worth wasting my life.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

RBG. She’s a real-life superhero. She bravely paved the way for women’s rights before it was even a popular topic among women. She’s a brilliant and brave visionary whose living influence has probably had more impact than anyone in the world.

This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Candice Georgiadis

Written by

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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