As part of JBF’s efforts to provide a platform for women in the culinary industry to speak out, be heard, and enact change, our Women’s Leadership Programs recently launched a webinar series. The first installment in our ongoing series featured Dr. Deborah A. Harris, a leading researcher on the sociology of women in the kitchen, and Juliana Stone, vice president at the Elliot Group, an executive search and consulting firm focused on the food industry. Below, Harris answers a question from the group on the role men can play in improving equity in the industry.
JBF: How do we bring men to this conversation? What role can men play to foster a positive environment and promote women and what can we do to involve them?
Dr. Deborah A. Harris: That’s a great question. If we really want to move forward, we can’t do that without involving men. I think a lot of men are open to this, they just don’t know what they can do. For the men who are already really interested and see this as a problem to be addressed, there are small things they can be doing, like making sure that the women they work with get media attention. When a chef or a restaurant gets an accolade, make sure that you acknowledge the entire team, including the women.
Men can also look at some of their policies and send a clear message to their employees about the type of behavior that’s not allowed in their restaurants. They can explain that even if some of their staff may think something it’s a funny joke, it’s actually not acceptable, and that everyone will work better as a team when they feel respected. Having these values, and making sure you’re living up to them in how your restaurant is run, even if you’re not there all the time, is really important.
There may be some men who need to be convinced that this is an issue that matters and is something they should care about. I think a good argument is to talk about what it costs to replace a person. I keep hearing about how there’s a chef shortage right now, so it’s really in everyone’s best interest to have kitchens that are open and foster talent, because, in the long run, it’s going to be better for your bottom line.