Written on 08-Mar-2018
Women are dominating the headlines at the moment, not only in Hollywood, but also here on our shores and in our sector; the gender pay gap, discrimination during the recruitment process and women’s (under) representation in hospitality, travel and leisure have all hit the headlines over the past few months.
According to the ONS the number of female chefs in the industry has grown by 34% over the last 12 months, which is great news, but that still means less than 1 in 4 chefs (23.5%) are female. Women are clearly significantly underrepresented in our kitchens.
At CJUK the overwhelming majority of our chefs are male, with just a handful of female chefs in our brigade.
The restaurant kitchen is stereotypically a ‘tough’, male dominated zone, and is this image of the work environment playing a factor in attracting and retaining women in our kitchens?
A paper from pwc, Women in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure 2020, cited the ‘lack of flexibility in working conditions and/or support for women balancing careers with family’ as being systematic in women being underrepresented in the hospitality/travel/leisure sectors, particularly in senior positions.
More women than men work part time, with only a third of men working part-time, while only a third of women work full time (ONS/Caterer). At CJUK we are passionate about promoting flexible working for all chefs, ensuring that they have a healthy work life balance no matter their gender.
We believe that improving the chef experience will ultimately increase the attraction and retention of talent in the industry. If we’re talking about promoting equality in the workplace then we need to make it possible for Dad’s to be on the school run, or work part time to accommodate families to allow women to pursue and/or maintain careers equally.
Work life balance is really important and often working in hospitality and having time at home to raise a family does not always sit side by side, so could encouraging more flexible working be the answer?
But it isn’t all about children/family, there are other factors and experiences too that give a snapshot of how women are perceived in kitchens.
According to an article by the Guardian a female head chef reported circumstances where customers would assume her sous chef (a man) was the head chef, and another spent three years working without any uniform in a suitable size and feeling like she was playing ‘dress up’ every day.
There is also a dislike for the phrase ‘female chef’, “I’m just a chef!”
There is a finger or two to be pointed at the mainstream media. There has been a spectacular rise in the celebrity chef, but if you look at how those chefs are portrayed there is a big gender divide.
Gordon Ramsey, Heston Blumenthal, Marco Pierre White and co, are (generally) all branded primarily as demanding restaurant chefs. But then we have Nigella Lawson, Mary Berry, Delia Smith, Lorraine Pascal, who are all positioned more like friendly home cooks.
Not actively working to attract and retain a female workforce means that the sector is missing out of a wealth of talent sitting right in front of us.
Flexible working and a positive working experience for chefs, both male and female, needs to high on the agenda across our sector, and is something that we will be talking about at Northern Restaurant & Bar on 20th March during our CJUK Live Panel event. Register for free event CJUK Live