Successful Women–Mary Dillon

Mary Dillon is a study in contrasts. She eats McDonald’s food six times a week, but is a disciplined athlete who has run the Chicago marathon.

The home she shares with her husband and four children is formal, but also family-friendly. Their front door is framed by a large, impeccably decorated living room to the right and a well-used game room to the left.

Dillon grew up on Chicago’s South Side and lived at home for the first two years of college while she put herself through University of Illinois at Chicago by waitressing, but she fit right in with the all-Ivy League cohort at her first job after college, in brand management at Quaker Oats.

It was the beginning of a great career, marked by Dillon’s ability to make choices that unify disparate needs. She sees the big picture and steers a wise course with focus and empathy.

“I was an adventurous, big thinker growing up,” Dillon explains with a smile. She still is. Now she’s using that trait to improve the world’s perception of McDonald’s. This includes innovations like their Global Moms Advisory Panel, which includes nutritionists, athletes and moms. Dillon developed a holistic approach to sponsorships—based on food quality, employee commitment and children’s well-being—intended to lift up all McDonald’s stakeholders.

For instance, at the Vancouver Olympics, McDonald’s was the only restaurant brand that served athletes in the Olympic Village. The crew was made up of 300 of McDonald’s best Canadian employees. And Dillon supported the “McDonald’s Champion Kids” program, which brought children from around the world to Vancouver to meet the Olympic athletes.

Dillon rose rapidly through Quaker’s ranks, while marrying her college sweetheart and raising three children. Her husband’s decision to be a stay-at-home dad helped.

In 1996, she left Quaker Oats and moved with her family to Oregon to become marketing vice president for a small company. She returned to Quaker in 2000, and was president by 2004. One year later, McDonald’s lured her away.

And rising through the corporate ranks hasn’t kept Dillon from giving back. She and her family volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House, where she also contributes with her department. She has served on the board of Housing Opportunities for Women and is currently on the board of NorthShore University HealthSystem.

With her discipline, collaborative nature and strategic vision, Dillon seems destined for even greater accomplishments. We look forward to following her.