The reason why for the interviews
I’ve seen first-hand how women continue to be underrepresented and underappreciated in the workplace and wider society. So when I entered the hospitality and catering industry earlier this year, I was concerned about underrepresentation. But, boy, was I in for a shock…
Joining Fooditude, I have so far experienced an inclusive culture. Moreover, I am pleasantly surprised by the level of female leadership and how everyone’s achievements are recognised.
So far, Fooditude’s progressive attitude has reassured me: gender equality CAN be achieved and sustained!
I wanted to create content with substance for International Women’s Day. So what better way than to collect the stories of my colleagues to provide an authentic impression of women’s global, daily battle for gender equality?
After many conversations with incredible women, I am proud to publish the experiences of those within my team and the business community, like Kali Hamerton-Stove, founder of the social enterprise The Glasshouse.
An introduction by Safena Yvanovich, Marketing Assistant at Fooditude, who conducted the interviews in this article.
Founder, The Glasshouse
From Team Fooditude:
HR & Finance Director
Head of People & Culture
Recruitment & Onboarding Coordinator
Head of Operations
People & Recruitment Advisor
Events & CX Manager
Why do you think it’s important to celebrate International Women’s Day?
“I was born in the 1970s and when you look back, it’s overwhelming to see how much has changed just in that amount of time. I have hope for similar change to double for the next generation. A lot of the women we work with are so young and have life ahead of them, I would love for the world to be a better place for them, full of opportunity and equality.”
“It is important to recognise women for their achievements, regardless of their background. It is also important to acknowledge that within the UK & across the world there is still a huge gap with what women can achieve compared to men, whether this be pay, ability to climb the career ladder, or a more basic requirement like having access to education.”
“We know that there are more barriers for women to succeed and achieve and yet, women do incredible things in life and business every day, despite those barriers. It’s important we take time to celebrate the achievements and actions of women, there’s still a way to go, but progress is being made and it’s important we celebrate that. We employ incredible women at Fooditude, across all areas of the business who are doing amazing things and are driving our business forward, who I love working with and look up to. By taking part in the celebration of IWD we are saying to our team, we recognise you and we celebrate you.”
“Women in the workplace have been second class citizens for a long time, so it is always good to have a day that celebrates them, making sure that the goodness and greatness that women can bring to workplaces isn’t brushed under the carpet.”
“It’s important to celebrate because women are so underrepresented and undervalued across the globe, so much of the work we do remains invisible. Especially in food systems, research points at how much farm profitability can rely on mostly unaccounted for women’s labor. There are still so many structural barriers that women face and I think we’re an incredible force both professionally and personally. From my perspective we’re really good at creating our own networks of support and it’s one of the many reasons why I value my women friendships so much.”
Are there any women that you look up to? Or any that have inspired you?
“There are so many, famous and not so famous women that inspire. Certainly the women I work with are a constant inspiration, as many have faced mistreatment and chaos in life, yet here they are standing up and working hard toward a better life. Michelle Obama comes to top of mind as her honesty and positivity are so inspiring. As a southerner from the US, I always think of Rosa Parks, her strength and tenacity serve as a guide and I can’t help but love my fellow Nashvillian, Reese Witherspoon for what she’s done for women in male-dominated film and tv production. Women are generally amazing and I’m lucky to work with an all-woman team of smart, kind, dedicated women.”
“I think Kate Nichols has been a great female role model within the hospitality industry, demonstrating that a woman can hold the top job and have a huge impact on supporting the future of hospitality.”
“My mum is someone who I admire. She lost her own mum very young and decided to move on her own from Ireland to London to search job opportunities when she was 16. Although not easy, she found work, made friends, met my dad and went on to own a lovely home and have four children. She has always encouraged and been supportive in us following our own paths and also instilled in me a love of cooking and food. On weekends my mum would always be looking through recipe books or watching James Martin and Delia Smith for inspiration for recipes and I’ve always enjoyed learning tips from her. I’m still not quite as good a cook as her but aim to keep practicing so one year I can give her Christmas off and host Christmas dinner!”
“There are some great female chefs. Angela Hartnett for example is quite an inspiration, especially being a female chef, I think taking on that side of hospitality is even tougher. She’s done some amazing things and is super successful.”
“So I went into this bookshop the other day and there was this photography book which had a compilation of historical photographs picturing groups of political, scientific, and industry leaders. What connected each image is that amongst a large cohort of men, there would always be one woman hidden somewhere amongst them. Seeing these women especially at a time where there were even more barriers to being recognised in those realms I couldn’t help but think of how resourceful, persevering and intelligent they must’ve been to make a place for themselves, and inevitably shaped the way for us and future generations. Otherwise there’s Polly Higgins, she was a lawyer who dedicated her career to getting ecocide acknowledged as an international crime and was an incredible leader in that sphere, redefining how we think about environmental rights.”
“My biggest inspiration continues to be my first manager in my previous hospitality job. She took me under her wing and gave me all the tricks and capabilities I needed to feel confident in my role. She provided the building blocks for me to kickstart my HR journey and so she continues to be someone I look up to. I’m still in touch with her.”
“Michelle Obama – used her platform to engage with social issues. She has consistently advocated for gender equality and women’s empowerment and spoken out about the importance of education, leadership and self-confidence. Her work and approach is truly inspirational!”
What woman has positively impacted you in your career?
“Melissa, my business partner and friend, is so true to what she believes, she really lives her life to make the world better. I have endless respect for her. She’s kickstarted and supported so many businesses that have the potential to make positive change. I have a strong network of incredible women to call on and they’ve all been so giving and generous with their time and experience as we’ve built The Glasshouse.”
“A few years ago Dr Ariana Zeka’s module on Climate Change and Planetary Health is probably what really introduced me to sustainability issues in farming. I remember being incredibly intrigued by one of the articles she shared with us and basically my passion for food systems and sustainability has just snowballed from there. There’s also of course my mother, who at age 60 still has what feels like an endless amount of energy and creativity. I find it really inspiring how open-minded and interested she has always been in what keeps younger generations busy and her openness to integrating in her daily life any insights I share with her from whatever sustainable issue I am looking into at that point in time.”
“Sarah was one of my University supervisors. I entered University thinking I wanted to be a Forensic Psychologist and soon realised this wasn’t my passion. Sarah was incredibly supportive in helping me discover what I wanted to do and where I wanted my career to go. That kind of support was invaluable and I continue to be grateful for it.”
“A brand director in a previous role – who taught me to always be one step ahead and aim to exceed your ‘customers’ expectations.”
Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being a woman, and if so, how have you worked to overcome them?
“I’ve loved every job I’ve ever had and I’ve been fortunate to have brilliant mentors who helped me flourish and learn. At times, I enjoyed my jobs despite the situation rather than because of it. There were certianly instance when someone did something inappropriate or made me feel uncomfortable and I laughed it off or worked around it. I did what I felt had to do to get my job done and now look back at a lot of instances and question why I never said or did anything. This job has made me realise that the approach of ‘getting on with it’ is perhaps not beneficial to the situation of women as a whole. Since I’ve had this job I’ve realised that it’s not okay to be silent and will call out that inappropriate behaviour.”
“I think the hospitality industry is quite rife, women can often be teased and at times sexually harassed. Also, say I had a group meeting and was with a male co-worker, it’s assumed that they are more senior than I am, and that’s happened a few times. To get past those barriers, work very hard. In general, women do have to work harder to prove themselves. It’s unfair, but continues to be the case.”
“I was previously a restaurant manager and there were multiple challenging interactions, as is the case with any customer-facing job. On numerous occasions, I’ve encountered disrespect for being a woman and for being a woman in a senior management role. I have overcome these barriers by working very hard and doing so has helped me grow a strong backbone, giving me the confidence to stand up for myself.”
“I think most of us will have experienced some form of sexism as a barrier in our careers, but sometimes they’re so structural and pervasive that it’s not even always that obvious when it does hit you. In the past I’ve definitely felt a sense of needing to over justify my knowledge and value both in academic and professional contexts, but overall I try and unlearn adapting myself too much and from my experience companies who already have a lot of women in leadership positions have tended to be environments in which I feel valued for who I am, regardless of gender.”
“I can honestly say I haven’t. My career prior to Fooditude was in the Retail Head Office, which always had a high percentage of women in the top jobs!”
If you could have dinner with an inspirational woman, who would they be and why?
“There are so many and you can become quite emotional thinking about all the women that have paved the way for where we are. If I only get one woman to spend an evening with, I’d like to be entertained with tons of inspiring stories. Despite living in the UK for more than 20 years, I’m American deep-down so I’m going to be honest and choose Oprah Winfrey, she’s stayed positive and thoughtful through her long career and could share stories from so many interesting and inspiring people.”
“Malala Yousafzai: Malala is a young Nobel Peace Prize winner who has been an advocate for women’s rights, education, and peace. She survived a Taliban assassination attempt and has continued to speak out on these important issues that impact women in everyday society. I see her as a woman who has made significant contributions to society so far, and her perspective and insights would be interesting to hear over dinner!”
“Michelle Obama. She’s pretty incredible and a great advocate for women’s rights. She’s not only had to overcome being a woman, but also being a woman of colour. She’s very inspirational.”
“Kimberlé Crenshaw! She has coined the term ‘intersectionality’ which, in a nutshell, is about how different forms of discrimination like racism and sexism tend to exacerbate each other when they overlap, and in combination can create their own specific set of problems and forms or experiences of inequality, which tend to be overlooked, especially in policy making. It’s such a complex issue and might take a few dinners to cover it all haha.”
“I would love to have dinner with Dolly Parton. As a big country music fan I love that she is someone who has proven to be a successful businesswoman in an industry that can be very tough. I love the stories she tells through her song writing, and how she created Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library which is dedicated to inspiring a love of reading by gifting books free of charge to children from birth to age five.”
“My late mum. She taught me to be confident in my own ability & to follow my dreams.”
What is the most important message you want to send out today?
“It’s so important that we don’t judge people and that we keep our minds and our hearts open, giving people a second chance. Life presents each of us with different challenges and anything can happen, circumstances can cause chaos and not everything goes to plan. Getting to know our team of women in prison, I am humbled and I recognise that it could have been me, it could have been any of us in difference circumstances.”
“Believe in yourself & know you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.”
“Celebrate your achievements and the achievements of others, lift each other up. Be positive and supportive of each other. Let’s #EmbraceEquity”
“I want to emphasise that it’s okay to take your time to figure out what you want to do and where you want your career to go. The most important thing is your happiness, so don’t put immense pressure on yourself.”
“I think just emphasising that regardless of one’s own gender, we should all try to support women as much as possible when we have the ability to do so.”
Women are a force to be reckoned with
For me, these stories illuminate the importance and value women bring to society and the catering and hospitality industry. We should not forget that women’s battle for equal recognition has not yet been won. The stories in this article have delighted me, where progress has been made, and disturbed me, where sexism has been experienced.
Everyone is responsible for living and behaving in a way that furthers gender equality and creates a better world where bias and discrimination have been eradicated. And we should settle for nothing less.
Discover more about the International Women’s Day #EmbraceEquity campaign
Written by Safena Yvanovich