Female chef numbers declining according to latest research

24 February 2016 by
Female chef numbers declining according to latest research

Female chefs are becoming increasingly scarce, with figures revealing fewer than one in five chefs in the UK (18.5%) is a woman.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that although the total number of chefs in employment in 2015 increased by 21,000 compared with 2014, the number of female chefs declined by around 2,000 in the same period.

In London, the picture is thought to be even bleaker. Research from hospitality recruiter the Change Group indicates only one in eight applicants for chef jobs in the capital in the last three years have been from female candidates.

The Change Group also carried out a survey of 508 experienced female chefs to determine their views on working in the industry.

Almost two in five (37%) said they were planning on leaving the industry or were unsure if they would stay, which could result in a further decline in the coming years.

But nearly three-quarters said they would recommend the career to other women.

Ana Seini Ma'ilei, a sous chef at Aubaine on Brompton Road in London, has been working for 10 years as a chef. Her husband is also a chef and the two have to juggle shifts to look after their five-year-old daughter, as they cannot afford childcare.

She said: "When I started off I didn't think it would be that difficult for women. But I've come across a lot of male chefs who underestimate female chefs. They think women can't carry stuff, that we'll be moody at that time of the month. But it always makes me try harder and prove them wrong in a way."

Only a quarter of chefs surveyed had children and 52% of them said that more flexible working hours would make it easier for women to pursue a career in the industry long-term.

Sabrina Gidda, head chef at Bernardi's, said: "I've done two Roux scholarships and I was the only female in last year's competition. I find it a bit worrying that from the 120 chefs who participated that I was the only woman. That doesn't make me feel great.

"I think being a woman has made absolutely no difference to my career. If anything I think it was quite a positive thing for companies I work for to have a single, young, Asian female chef. I was given lots of opportunities and I was also quite focused about chasing them down."

Craig Allen, director of the Change Group, said: "Our research shows that women chefs are really passionate about their career and have a very positive attitude to their workplace. Some women chefs even see being female as an advantage even if they are very much still in the minority in the professional kitchen.

"However, their numbers are clearly dwindling overall."

He added: "They told us the hours are too long, the pay is too low, it's hard to juggle a family and they don't necessarily like the working environment.

"Given the continuing dire chef shortage, it is a huge concern that we are potentially putting off female talent."

Melanie Hayes, resourcing and development director at Compass Group UK & Ireland, said: "We are developing a number of new initiatives to both further support and attract female chefs.

"We have found that due to the nature of the contract catering business our chefs are able to work more flexible hours around family life due to different shift patterns to the traditional restaurant model."

It's not just the UK - US in chef shortage >>

Chef shortage fears amid sharp decline in chef training >>

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