International Women’s Day is around the corner and we took a moment to talk to some of the amazing women that make our world go round. We asked them why our industry is still seen as a man’s world and why they think more women should consider hospitality as a career.
In The Kitchens:
Chef Theign at Le Garçon Saigon
I try not to approach my position in this industry as a ‘woman in hospitality’. Maybe because I had a really good mentor in my first executive chef who often said: ‘There are no girls or boys in my kitchen, only chefs’. Do I sometimes need to ask for help with heavy duty lifting? Yes, but that is mostly because of my height, not my gender. I know my own strengths and weaknesses and if I need to ask for help, I do. Just as easily as I offer help when it is needed by others. I think a balanced dynamic, in any industry, is beneficial to the whole team and having diversity is key to exploring alternative solutions. At the end of the day, isn’t hospitality about people?
Chef Gizzy at Hotal Colombo
All of my most valued dishes, the recipes that have stayed with me since childhood are inspired by my mother and grandmother. Without their influence, I would not have them in my arsenal, so I think having women lean into their roles in the industry can only propel it forward. Of course there are things that make it challenging, societal misconceptions and an industry that is still relatively male-dominated, but nothing changes if nothing changes, right? I love seeing young women take up positions in hospitality, from chefs to front-of-house and it is especially important when women are leaders. I have seen the fear and the doubt crumble when they accomplish something that the outside world tells them they cannot and the ripple effect that has on others. When people ask me why women should consider hospitality as a career I have only one thought: why not?
Chef Lisette at Osteria Marzia
Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, the industry can be tough, especially on your personal life. So creating a family within the industry can be your greatest source of support. For me, being surrounded by positive people that have my back and believe in my ability is what helps me overcome challenges. I think women are vital mentors in this industry, breaking down stereotypes and showing everyone that everyone is as capable as they push themselves to be. The most important thing is for my team members to feel like they belong, no matter who they are or how the world wants to define them. Happy team members make happy guests. I have definitely seen a shift in the industry, working with so many inspiring women both in the kitchen and on the floor. Feminism has become an entity of its own, no longer pleading to be heard but opening doors to the top.
Chef Yen at La Vache! TST
Coming back to Hong Kong after spending 12 years in Canada was a bit of a culture shock when it came to the gaps in the industry. But it is not one I believe in or allow in my kitchen, because women and men are just as capable as each other. Yes, this industry has its challenges, but once you are a part of it that all falls away and it comes down to performance. I know I am extremely reliable and consistent, I pay a lot of attention to detail which is crucial in the restaurant and that has nothing to do with me being a woman. As we move into a new era of technology and automation I think what will keep hospitality valuable is human interaction and that comes down to individuals, not genders. You can be a strong woman, or a nurturing man, as long as you are using your strengths to look after guests and strive for excellence in everything you do, this industry will continue to be one that draws people in.
On The Floor:
Rebecca at Motorino
My parents have never been very happy about their baby girl working in service. They worked really hard to give me a lot of options and opportunities so for me to choose a job where I am serving other people seems like madness to them. But it is also the long hours and late nights that get to them, there is not a lot of glamour in this industry and for their generation there is a perception that there is more stability in a ‘regular’ office job. But if you are the kind of people-person that just cannot be sat at a desk all day, then hospitality is empowering, nurturing and I am surrounded every day by people that love food and drink as much as I do!
Amy at Ho Lee Fook
I think a lot of women can be put off working in the industry because the societal norm is still that women are going to be the primary caretakers when it comes to kids and there is the concern that, at some point, the long hours are going to make having a family impossible. It is true that in many ways working in hospitality means that your personal life takes a backseat, you sacrifice a lot and the late nights can strain relationships, but we also have some really amazing mums and dads within our community, so I know it is possible to make it work. As someone who truly loves taking care of people, whether that is my team or my guests, I cannot imagine doing anything else. I still get such a thrill from meeting a guest for the first time, a total stranger at the start and, through genuine hospitality, making them part of my restaurant’s family.
Claire at Carbone
Earning respect from a predominantly male team can be a bigger challenge than it should be and can be intimidating, plus this industry requires a lot of sacrifice you might not realise you are making in regards to your personal life. But I have always felt that a problem is only as big as you let it be. I have never felt held back by my gender because I have never pandered to those who might perceive what I do as something that it is not a woman’s job. I have been a chef, sommelier, mixologist, waitress and general manager and never have I felt I could not lift, push or go as hard or as fast as my fellow male colleagues. Women are much stronger than they realise, this industry challenges and pushes you to understand that and not only become an influential champion for your team and guests, but increases your own personal self-awareness and stamina. This has led to me being a more consistent, empathetic and business-minded leader, one who is able to lead with my heart and act with my head.
Margaux at Fukuro
I think the biggest challenge is for women to be heard and taken seriously when stereotypes still exist. That is why representation is so important: the more women that pursue careers in hospitality, the more we challenge what we are told, the more we start important conversations and create space to take a stand and say what we think. I know that having other women on my team has helped me to grow and has been a source of comfort and support, helping me to solve problems and be better.
Feeling inspired? See what our team members are focusing on for 2020 (resolutions can be made any day of the year, right?) or read about the most heartwarming moments we have witnessed in the restaurants over the years.