There is so much happening right now that bodes well for women across industries that are working toward gender parity in opportunity and pay. The good news of the #girlpower zeitgeist in Hollywood, engineering and the sciences, broadcast journalism, technology is that it extends to the culinary industry, with so many people - women and men - linking arms to empower women in the food world.
But here’s another piece of good news that bodes well for women. The food industry is going through a revolution. There are 3 factors that are changing everything – and are giving women huge opportunities to create a more gender balanced food world.
First, there is simply a shortage of talent in the pipeline. While the numbers attending culinary school have not wavered – and those numbers tend to be balanced between the genders – there are so many other options for a culinary school graduate than the traditional restaurant route: upscale grocery, catering, working in corporate or college kitchens. At the same time you have the explosion of interest in food, foodie culture, celebrity chefs and restaurant openings, and the talent pool has not kept pace. In order to entice the talent to stay in the industry, which is something that all foodies should care about, the hyper-macho kitchen culture has to change.
The second change facing the culinary industry is that shifting consumer tastes have been brought about by an awareness of and demand for healthy options and proper food labeling. This is being led in large part by women as everyone becomes better educated about how food affects health. Consider Emily Luchetti, a James Beard Award winning Pastry Chef from San Francisco. She started a social media movement called #DessertWorthy to remind people that dessert is a special occasion, not an every meal necessity. Part of her message is also about the hidden sugar in packaged foods. Chefs are also instrumental in the push for legislation that will require GMO labeling on consumer food products.
The third change facing the food and restaurant world and quite frankly the US as a country is the need for comprehensive family leave policies that allow for people to stay in the industry and have a family. The conversation about this issue hit a boiling point last fall as UK MasterChef Judge Monica Galetti said in an interview that if a woman wanted to succeed in the food world, she would have to chose between her family and her career; that there was simply no way to have a family and be a chef. For the good of women and men and families, the restaurant industry has to change to accommodate real life.
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