'You wouldn't say female doctor': Calls for gender equality on International Women's Day

09 March 2022 by
'You wouldn't say female doctor': Calls for gender equality on International Women's Day

"You wouldn't say female doctor", Sally Abé, consultant chef at the Conrad London St James, told those who gathered at her restaurant the Pem to mark International Women's Day, as she called for an end to female chefs being referenced as a sub-category.

The chef spoke in a panel entitled Making Hospitality Sustainable for Women alongside chef and broadcaster Andi Oliver; Sandia Chang, sommelier, founder of Bubbleshop and co-founder of two-Michelin-starred Kitchen Table; Ali Ross, general manager of the Coach and Horses, Soho and Fikaya Ifaturoti, Pol Roger business development executive.

Abé said: "It's obviously important to celebrate women in an industry that's 75%/25% [men to women] to try and draw more women in but being a female chef doesn't mean you're any less of a chef – you wouldn't say male doctor and female doctor."

Oliver agreed saying the phrase ‘female chef' "drives me crazy". She continued: "A great chef is a great chef regardless of gender.

"I think it's slightly patronising, it's like there's a separate category for us because the guys have taken that space."

As the discussion turned to keeping female talent within the industry Ross said that hospitality needed to be promoted as a positive career choice for both men and women, adding that changes needed to be made to show women that they could have a family and work in the industry.

She added: "It's not cool to work 60-70 hours a week anymore and it needs to be addressed."

Chang said she received lots of support while on maternity leave and encouraged women to "surround themselves with supportive people", while acknowledging "parenting in itself is hard enough and yes hospitality is not the easiest".

She added: "I'm still trying to figure it out and I think that's OK."

Oliver also said stressed that the industry did not by its nature need to be inflexible. She added: "The great thing about hospitality is it's malleable you can make your restaurant or bar work however you want it to."

Encouraging women to have the confidence to push themselves forward Abé referenced research suggesting women are far less likely than men to apply for a position unless they met all the criteria listed for candidates.

She continued: "If you want to start your business be confident and believe in yourself and project that."

Chang added that it was important not to become preoccupied with gender when promoting yourself. She said: "Don't think in terms of women and men. When you go into that board room of six men you've got to think there's no difference between you and them."

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