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Female Chefs and #breakingthebias for IWD 2022

Today marks International Women’s Day 2022 and now more than ever, the catering and hospitality industry needs to look at ways to improve gender equality particularly for female chefs.

#breakthebias


International Women’s Day which is always on March 8th every year is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. The first ever IWD was in 1911 and they have made waves ever since.

Each year they have a theme and 2022 is #breakthebias. This theme aims to raise awareness against bias and look to take action on equality as well as celebrating the many achievements of women. It wants you to imagine a gender equal world, free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. One that is diverse and inclusive, where difference is valued and celebrated.

Female Chefs in 2022

Recent research by Big Hospitality showed that the number of female chefs entering the industry has risen by a third since 2016. This is very promising, however many are in part time work and a staggering 58% of senior roles are taken by men. This means it could be difficult for female chefs to make it to the top.

KSB’s Division Manager, Laura Saxty was a Chef before moving into the world of catering and hospitality recruitment. I chatted with her to discuss her time in industry as a female chef, her thoughts on gender equality, how women are represented and what needs to change.

Can you talk through your career as a Female Chef, why you wanted to become a Chef and did it live upto your expectations?

I wanted to become a chef as I had a passion for cooking passed down to me from my grandmother. I studied at University College Birmingham (UCB) and created a mutual affinity with one of my lecturers. They supported me to create dishes for food photography within recipe books initially, then later helped me into my first role in a 2 Rosette establishment. I promoted Head Chef here too. Since then I have been a Regional Head Chef and Executive Chef in establishments ranging from branded high street restaurants to well known chain hotels and some of the worlds largest contract caterers. I absolutely loved being a chef and it is an industry I am so proud to be a part of! Being a female pioneer makes it even better!!

Why did you leave your Chef career and move into recruitment?

I was head hunted by a Hospitality Recruitment company who recognised my skills and passion! Many of my chef roles have included an element of recruitment. I found I have a natural ability to deliver an excellent service to the clients and candidates. Hospitality recruitment is such a niche, and having the industry knowledge really helps with empathising with client struggles and understanding candidates aspirations. 

Do you feel there is unconscious bias for female chefs and are women underrepresented in the catering and hospitality industry?

It can be very difficult to prove yourself as a female chef. Often it feels like you need to exceed the performance of your male peers in order to get recognised. The industry is improving on this, however there is still a way to go to ensure female chefs are pushed to the forefront to get the representation and exposure they deserve.

Did you ever feel there was unconscious bias towards you when you worked as a Chef? If so, do you think more was expected of you because you are a woman?

Sometimes it can be assumed that women are not strong or tough enough to work in a kitchen alongside male chefs. This has been clear in many places that I have worked and I have really had to push to be recognised for my skills. I have had situations where my ideas have not been listened to in staff meetings and I have had to take my own initiative to change things. The proof would be in the pudding and eventually the change would be approved. It is a shame that it has to be approached in that way.

Did you work anywhere that broke this mold, where you felt equal to your male colleagues?

Unfortunately not, until I came into recruitment. However, hospitality recruitment can sometimes feel like you are still in a kitchen due to most colleagues being from the industry.

Recent research has shown the number of female Chefs has increased by a third since 2016. However, they are still a minority in senior roles. Meaning it could be hard to reach the top as a female chef. Why do you feel this is?

You really have to give it your all to prove your worth which can be all consuming at times. You definitely need to have a thick skin and a truck load of resilience. At times you may feel broken or defeated….but I promise it is so worth it in the end; to stand back and say “I made it there, the struggle I have gone through has made me the stronger person I am today”

What in your opinion needs to change to make the industry more inviting to potential female chefs and improve gender equality?

I think equal pay and the reduction in chauvinism is a great help. However, we need to give female chefs more of a voice in the media. We’re out there, you just have to talk to us. Women are doing it, men are doing it, let’s talk to both sides. I think you have to look outside the box, but you don’t have to look that hard. Women are not hiding; we are not cooking in secret in secret hidden pop-ups that nobody goes to!

What advice would you give to young girls considering a career as a Chef?

Go for it! Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Work hard, stay true to yourself and trust your instincts. Be tenacious, relentless and don’t be afraid to ask for mentorship from chefs you admire. Develop and expand your connections and network in hospitality as this will assist you greatly with future opportunities.

Thank you to Laura for sharing her story and views on female chefs and how the industry needs to change.

Are you a female chef? Are you looking for a new job?  Work in a better environment maybe? KSB Hospitality Recruitment Agency are working with some great establishments that are paving the way for change. Click Chef Jobs to find out more.

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