Facing pressure from consumer and worker advocates inside its annual shareholder meeting and outside its Oak Brook, Ill., headquarters, McDonald’s Corp. presented itself to stockholders as a company with growth potential around the world and a responsible marketer and corporate citizen.

Protesters calling for McDonald’s and other quick-service companies to pay hourly workers a wage of at least $15 per hour gathered outside the chain’s campus yesterday and Thursday morning. A group of 101 McDonald’s employees and 38 social-justice organizers reportedly crossed a police barricade yesterday and were arrested.

“We’ve had people outside, and we respect that they want to challenge us relative to wages,” chief executive Don Thompson said during the meeting. “We pay competitive wages, provide opportunities and training for people entering the workforce. … McDonald’s has a great story, and it’s a story of diversity.”

During his prepared remarks, Thompson said McDonald’s had evolved the framework of its Plan to Win strategy to “lead with the customer” to provide consumers’ favorite food and beverages, memorable experiences and convenience, as well as to be a trusted brand.

The last point was where the operator or franchisor of 35,000 restaurants worldwide received pushback from some attending shareholders, once again around questions related to McDonald’s marketing practices to children, the sustainability of its supply chain, and its wage scale for employees.

The wage issue was top of mind at Thursday’s meeting because of the protesters outside and several questions about pay and career advancement.

Thompson responded that McDonald’s remains committed to providing competitive wages, as well as support and education through platforms like Hamburger University and the English Under the Arches language-training program. The chain also is part of the Joining Forces Coalition to recruit and hire military veterans. But most important is the brand’s commitment to providing opportunity and the chance at genuine career advancement, he said.

“There is no better testament to McDonald’s commitment to its employees that 50 percent of our general managers started as crew members,” Thompson said. “So did 60 percent of our owner-operators. We’re consistently recognized as one of the best places to work around the world.”

Thompson added that a job at McDonald’s is often the first entry into the workforce for many people, as one-third of its crew members are between the ages of 16 and 29, and nearly 60 percent of those employees are 24 or younger. Seventy percent of hourly employees work part time, he said.

“This isn’t a starter job, and I’m not a teenager,” 22-year-old McDonald’s employee Ashona Osborne said in a statement released to the press following the meeting.

“This is my career, and I’m struggling to raise a family and provide for my son,” said Osborne, who works at a Pittsburgh McDonald’s unit. “That’s not possible on $7.25 [per hour]. McDonald’s needs to recognize that its workforce has changed. McDonald’s should offer real opportunity, for workers and our families, and they should start by raising wages to $15 per hour.”