SPECIAL REPORT: The female perspective on catering equipment life

There is a stark gender imbalance in the catering equipment sector.

It cannot have escaped anyone’s notice that women are greatly in the minority in the catering equipment industry, especially in senior positions. Indeed, when Catering Insight published an editor’s column about female representation in the sector, it garnered many positive responses from those at the coal face.

Delving deeper into this subject, we posed some searching questions to women in this business. For instance, Cathy Wilcox, director at distributor, WilcoxBurchmore, feels that this industry is seen as male dominated. “Even the term ‘heavy equipment’ somehow isn’t attractive to women,” she commented. “Project work involves going on site, which some women may not like, and also it is seen as quite technical – so maths and physics have been traditionally male subjects.”

However, in her experience, she feels she’s actually been treated a lot better than her male counterparts at times. “On site at meetings, it can be a testosterone-fuelled environment,” she recounted. “But with a woman in the room, people are mindful of their language and tempers tend to be less frayed. I always offer to make the tea and take the notes so the men drop their guard and think ‘at least she’s not some contentious feminist’.”

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She continued: “I think it’s a fabulous industry and have met good and bad people of both sexes. I have noticed a lot more women in the building field though.”

On the subject of whether the amount of women in the industry should be increased, Wilcox commented: “You can’t force anyone to take women on and women have to take into account the hours that are sometimes needed. During this summer I’ve needed to leave at 5am some days for early morning site meetings. Women with school age children may find this hard.”

She believes that the majority of staff in kitchen houses are men, apart from admin and accounts roles, estimating that there are probably only 10% of women active within the project sector. “There is a greater amount working for suppliers, percentage-wise, but it’s certainly not 50/50.”

Wilcox recalled: “I remember working for Carford and being overlooked for promotion twice. After 9 years I left to get promotion and then upon redundancy started WilcoxBurchmore. Good salaries could encourage more women into the sector, but are woman aware of the opportunities? Light equipment is certainly seen as more ‘applicable’ for a women.”

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One Comment;

  1. Jack Sharkey said:

    Long gone are the days of the old boys club within the industry (I hope), the industry needs and welcomes new blood, and agree with the comments, ”it is about education” and education of the wider community, that the foodservice world is a viable career path for those willing to spend the time learning. The contribution of employees in the workplace should always be on merit not gender, I for one welcome and encourage the female gender to join this very dynamic, challenging and changing business environment and industry, they can/are and will be a huge benefit to our industry, I know most of the contributors to this article and have huge respect and admiration for them. Gender for me has always and should always be Neutral in the workplace.

    Jack Sharkey MSc

    (Husband to a loving and successful wife)
    (Father to two very beautiful and successful Daughter’s)

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