They feel that while they have been treated differently in the industry as women, this has been neither negative nor positive. Cheetham suggested that if any women in the industry have encountered discrimination: “Perhaps they need to do as we do and develop a thicker skin and be comfortable with knowing their own worth. After all, the problem is with those displaying prejudice, not the intended recipient.”
Cheetham and Moden accept that there are not many women in management roles, commenting: “Crucially we cannot escape the fact that we are serving a male-dominated industry – the majority of our clients are men who prefer to deal with men and, as we know, in order to sell, the rapport and client affinity needs to be there.
“This is also an industry that has never marketed itself to women – and whilst there are clearly many capable women seeking opportunities, is ‘catering equipment distributor’ really out there as a viable career option? It is also worth pointing out that many businesses with women on the board of directors have arrived by virtue of a family or marital connection – their contribution is not less worthy but even for those highly successful women, the catering equipment industry was probably not first choice.”
Therefore, they believe that to encourage talent: “We can advertise the industry as a good career where all (irrespective of gender) are respected; we can create a situation where employees and managers can enjoy a good work life balance, but it will come down to the personal ambition, enthusiasm, perseverance and motivation of the individual. Men or women, old or young, it is an abundance of these talents which will improve the industry – try as we might this is not something we can manufacture or create.”
As operations director at BI Catering Equipment Services, Alison Jones says she generally takes people on merit rather than gender. “There appear to be more women in roles for front of house equipment and account positions rather than traditional back of house equipment and senior management positions,” she said.
“I think it would be nice to see more women in key positions but only if they are equipped with the correct attributes to do the jobs effectively. There is nothing worse than people being appointed to a role to achieve the perceived diversity quota.”
Jones believes that women do want to enter the industry but “due to the fact that many roles require a lot of travelling and time away this will put people off it they have young families or other interests that they wish to pursue”.
“Salaries in more traditional sales areas such as medical supplies are normally better remunerated. Possibly the amount of entertaining that is required in some roles is something that may put people off,” she added.