Scottish and International Masterchef Shona Sutherland talks about sexism in our industry and just how important it can be that male chefs nurture and support talent of both sexes.
Firstly, I want to stress that while dominance, bullying, harassment, sexism, intimidation and abuse I know is not confined to being directed only at women by men and can affect and be instigated by all demographic groups, since I am a chef and a female, I speak from this perspective. We can’t deny that it is an issue that still blights workplace mental and physical health, motivation, performance, passion, empowerment, happiness, and satisfaction.
Secondly, I am keen to make aware that having been in the industry for my working life, that I am thankful to have worked with and been taught by many inspirational, respectful, humble, equality fighting and talented chefs who are male. We’d be in denial if we didn’t confront the fact that women in some cases are still victims of misogyny. While recognition and progress has been made over the years, there is still an engrained egotism, arrogance, domination, narcissism apparent and it is projects like these that lead the way in raising awareness. Education and leading by example are key.
In an ideal world we can think of ourselves all as ‘chefs’ without a mention of gender, for me that is how I would have identified, but over time I have come to realise that it must be of huge disservice to women in the industry who have suffered atrocities at the hands of male colleagues.
If we don’t differentiate in gender (in certain circumstances of discussion), then I’m not sure how the issues mentioned above that exist can be confronted or transformed in the future. I have had the joy of working in professional kitchens where, alongside men, women were an integral part of the operation, bringing their creativity, humour, understanding, strength, passion, leadership, and determination with them. How beneficial would it be to be to empower these qualities in the workplace, or is this exactly what a superiority mentality would try to suppress?
I’d like to thank all those supportive, dynamic, creative, inspirational, and talented women I’ve encountered on my chef journey in all areas of the catering industry
Thanks, Unichef for inviting me and other chefs to take part in the ‘Not on the Menu’ project.
You can discover more about Shona and the fabulous work she does at Taystful, her chocolate emporium in Perthshire.
Shona has also created a survey so that female chefs can have thier say on sexism in the industry