SPECIAL REPORT: The female perspective on catering equipment life

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

Reporting that she has only been very occasionally patronised by male counterparts, she believes that these isolated incidents are “because the individual is an idiot rather than me being female. Thankfully I am confident enough to deal with them because I have an in-depth knowledge of the business which I am able to convey to them. I imagine this attitude could be upsetting to people less confident and starting out in the business. I think this would be the case whether male or female.

“I find most of our male customers charming and often they have a better relationship with the females in the office as they know that ‘we get things finished’ and females are better at communicating.”

While she feels that more women in the sector would not make a huge difference in this “flourishing marketplace”, she believes that there is a lot of mystery surrounding how to get involved in the industry. “It might be useful to make links with local colleges and education establishments. I wonder if there is an opportunity to look at apprentice roles for young people to break into the industry? By bringing young people in the office to learn about the business and product knowledge before they went out on the road to meet customers, it would give the individual good grounding and excellent product knowledge.”

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Jones concluded: “The tide is changing everywhere you look – we have another female Prime Minister. I believe this in itself will raise the momentum in seeing females reaching the top.”

Catering Design Group’s business development director, Claire Smith, feels that over the last 5 years she’s witnessed a definite, but not significant increase in female colleagues within the sector. However, she agreed: “The catering equipment industry is still very much a man’s world, with very few women in senior positions – the more senior roles tend to be filled by men in both manufacturing and design, which in my opinion, does need to change.

“At CDG we have quite a mix – half our design team is female, which I appreciate makes us unique in the industry. Our commercial director is also female and both of us form part of the senior management team. Interestingly, throughout my career in the industry, I have never come across a female contracts manager.

“As expected, the gender gap is most notable across back-of-house, which historically remains a male dominated environment. However, when I’ve witnessed females in executive chef roles, it has hugely changed the dynamic of a kitchen for the good.” She also feels that bringing more women into senior management roles would “go some way to shaking up the current infrastructure”.

Smith advised: “The industry needs to be made more attractive to females. There should be clear lines to career progression and more proactivity in recruiting them into senior managerial roles, such as manufacturing, technical, contracts, project management, even design to some degree.

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Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

1 Comment

  1. 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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