Six female chefs tackling gender equality in the foodservice industry

This month, we’ve been reflecting on the fundamental role and impact of women in hospitality.  The challenge to #BreaktheBias and create supportive workspaces where women are not only accepted but championed, continues.

We’ve spoken to female chefs who are making waves in their own ways and changing hospitality one step at a time. From tackling stereotypes in the kitchen to supporting young female chefs and improving maternity policies. Their experiences and advice sparked insightful discussions around ways to help make the industry fairer, more inclusive and happier places to be.

1. See being a woman as a strength

“People mistake being tough for strict, emotional for passionate, stubborn for organised and delicate for sensitive, and I think these are some good qualities of a chef which happen to be natural qualities of women. With Fi’lia I want to show that we can be all the above and more. Just because something is done a little differently doesn’t mean that it is wrong or not acceptable.

 I think that women have more attention to detail, a little more passion, cheekiness, and a heart-warming approach when it comes to cooking. We can also expertly manoeuvre our way through ‘an organised chaos’, as I like to call it.”  

Sara Aqel
Head Chef at Fil’ia Dubai


2. Develop resilience in the kitchen

“For me in the kitchen, resilience means having the ability to withstand all of the challenges we’re thrown and be able to bounce back from it with a positive 'can-do' attitude. Taking on feedback and tough moments and turning it into how we can always improve and provide a better experience.”  

Pip Lacey
Chef & Co-owner at hicce 

3. Create a fair and supportive environment

“The more you know and the more interest you show, the more you will be respected. I live and work by the ‘6 C’s and encourage my staff to do the same: Confidence, Courage, Commitment, ‘Can do’ attitude, Communication and Creativity. 

I like to  create a great working environment where the staff meals are good and people want to work together. Chat with your staff, know their names and say thank you. It makes a big difference. Without my team, I’m nothing, so I try to do as much as possible for them to be happy in their jobs.”  

Tronette Dippenaar 
Executive Chef at The Cellars-Hohenort Hotel

4. Support chefs juggling their careers with motherhood

“I think our leaders should have empathy. Understand the challenges mums face. Finding a balance between what works for you and for your employer is the way to allow for a balance between being a mum and a chef.”  

Zoe Gill 
Sector Development Chef at Brakes


5. Speak up against stereotypes

"For too long, many professional kitchens have turned into locker rooms. It can be scary to say anything for fear of being called “too sensitive” or “problematic”. We need to create environments where people feel like it’s safe to talk about issues. 

I find that many men (and sometimes women) don’t realize they are being offensive because it’s part of the “kitchen culture” they’ve always known. The simple act of saying something allows people to realize that it isn’t okay."  

Monica Yang 
Managing Chef & Concept Development at Red Lobster

6. Promote diversity and inclusion at all levels

“There should be more training on the topic of diversity. Restaurants should leverage diverse job boards and highlight diversity on the career page of their website. Furthermore, I think internships and scholarships aimed at less represented workforce can promote inclusion in teams. I would also suggest rewarding diverse referrals and celebrating employees’ differences.”  

To hear more from Chef Robyn, you can watch our Take20 session with her and Chef Heidi Heckmann here
Chef Robyn Marney 
Co-owner of Revival Catering


The challenges we’ve covered this month don't simply end now that International Women’s Day has passed. These are important conversations that we need to carry on having every day, in and outside of the kitchen.  
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