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Gender stereotypes are often used to explain horizontal and vertical segregation in the tourism and hospitality industries, but there is one area that demands we question this (at least to some extent): the kitchen. Did you know that women make up just around 20% of chefs in the UK? And yet one of the most prevalent stereotypes is surely that a woman’s place is in the kitchen! The statistics might be understood as an example of transcending gender stereotypes (men in the kitchen), but in reality, they support the stereotypical notion of leadership and paid employment as the domain of men.

A recent commentary on Let’s Sit at the Table, a roundtable launched in partnership by the Dubai based social enterprise Evolvin’ Women and The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery by Sofitel in September 2017, explored what can be done to attract and retain more women into the culinary arts. Participants included leading chefs and educators based in Dubai who discussed training, mentoring, work-life balance and educational programs to attract and retain women chefs.

While we don’t feel it necessary to provide a business case simply to promote a fair and equitable work environment, food and beverage businesses led by women tend to be on-trend as they are reflective of wider society. Consumers can, should, and arguably will demand more equitable services, after all, F&B is often easily substituted. From an academic perspective obviously more research is necessary, we need to look at why women are not choosing to become chefs, and the best way to find this out would be to ask them. We need to go beyond the stereotype of the kitchen as a masculine space, beyond the image of Gordon Ramsayesque head chefs in order to explore the true goings-on and their relationship to gender stereotypes. Gone should be the days of manwiches and Yorkie bars not for girls…

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