‘Women shouldn’t feel afraid to be vulnerable’

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Cooking up a storm: Experts discuss gender representations in hospitality on TV
Cooking up a storm: Experts discuss gender representations in hospitality on TV

Related tags Chef Social responsibility

Leading voices from the hospitality industry discussed the presentation of women in the media, at the Better Hospitality Conference 2024.

The conference took place at Mercato Metropolitano, Mayfair, central London, on 18 March to 19 March. 

The panel was comprised of strategy and communications advisor Kate Howell, editor-in-chief of Hertelier Emily Kanders Goldfisher and Mex Ibrahim, co-founder of Women in the Food Industry.

According to Howell, the media hadn’t massively moved on from portraying women as ‘cooks’ and men as ‘chefs’, with women either portrayed as homely grandmothers or very attractive.

Ibrahim said the media was not doing the best job of making hospitality look like a career people might want to enter. 

In some cases, she said the sector is portrayed as aggressive and hardworking – a space where no one has a rest and you can only get through it through drinking and drugs.
She added that cooking competitions on TV are often based on needing to win no matter the costs.

Howell said that often incredible chefs have time on the screen, but the media perception is on how angry they are, and she wondered whether this was really what people wanted to see.

Then the question was put to the panel, is the media portraying what is happening, or is hospitality getting influenced by what the media is portraying?

For Ibrahim, it is a bit of both. She said it is a fact there are not many female Michelin star chefs, so the media is clearly portraying what is out there. But shows like Great British Menu are trying to readdress this gender balance.

Changing perceptions

For Goldfisher, the media could “absolutely” have a responsibility in changing the perception of hospitality.

She said it is currently portraying the reality of hospitality, but not all the reality. Social media is allowing for people to have a voice in telling their stories, she added.

Ibrahim believed many shows presented kitchens as very male and very hard to work in. She added that there are not many older women portrayed in the media aside from grandmotherly types, such as women moving from finance to start their own businesses.

She also said social media has a nasty role to play in calling out women in ways it wouldn’t do with men.

Goldfisher said it was amazing more progress hadn’t been made in terms of female hosts.

Howell added that the whole industry needed to give women space, as well as on screen.

“Surely there is an audience for that. I’m certainly one of them,” she said, stating that there is hope for a new way of doing things.

Goldfisher added: “The onus is on women to keep telling our stories, to keep telling the stories of other women, to support each other.”

Howell echoed the words of a friend: while you can’t take responsibility for the whole world, you can take responsibility for your bit of it.

For instance, it is important to look at who you are representing on your social media channels, and who you are putting up for conferences.

Representation matters

“Don’t make it always about the head chef or CEO,” she explained. “A lot of people on the team will be women, and unless they’re seen, the media won’t even know they exist.”

She also said she’d love to see more women doing opinion pieces and shouting out about their businesses.

“If there isn’t an audience for it, they won’t make it,” she added, pointing out that people could make wise choices about what they watch, where they purchase from and how they consume it.

Goldfisher added that lots of women have imposter syndrome, and so she advised women who didn’t feel confident to get themselves trained and practise speaking.

Ibrahim’s advice for women is not to be afraid to show their weaknesses. “Do not be afraid to say you have problems – everyone has their down points – don’t be afraid to share those,” she said.

She added: “There is nothing wrong with being vulnerable. We should all be vulnerable because that’s being human.”

Related topics Chefs

Related news

Show more