Women Are Succeeding in the Restaurant Industry, But We Need More of Them

As we celebrate International Women’s Day as part of Women’s History Month, it’s impossible not to recognize how far women have come in our industry. They’ve shattered so many glass ceilings that it’s almost unthinkable to see how few women there are in critical positions.

Consider this; according to RestaurantHER, only about a quarter of all chefs are women, and only about 7% of head chefs are women. To top it off, women still only earn about 70% compared to men in similar positions. So, what gives?

According to the U.S. News and College Report, of the roughly 3,100 students attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, about 49% of them are women. So why is there not a similar breakdown in our nation’s eateries? Within the restaurant industry, women are a vital part of the workforce, making up more than 54% of employees. They often fill front-of-house roles, including hostesses, servers, and first-line supervisors of cooks and servers.

Anyone who gets into the restaurant industry isn’t doing it because they want to make an easy dollar. In fact, for many people who decide to go out on their own and open a business, there is a frightening amount of risk, but it’s a risk women are taking. In 2017 the National Restaurant Association noted that women were full or co-owners of more than half of America’s restaurants and held managerial positions in about 45% of them. The passion is there, the work ethic is there, but it seems like sometimes the opportunity to grow may not always be.

Not only are women putting in more than 40 hours each week toward perfecting their craft in restaurants across the U.S., but they’re also likely taking on additional duties at home due to the pandemic. That means more women are facing burnout, increased stress, and anxiety. Even worse, we run the risk of more women leaving the workforce, further tilting the scales toward inequality.

As an industry, we need to step up and continue supporting the women who show up each day and work as hard as their male peers, if not harder. More than 60% of women have worked in a restaurant at some point in their lives, and although there’s an increased pressure to have more women in leadership positions there is still so much more work to do.

So, while we’re taking today to honor the hard-working and powerful women in our industry, it’s important to recognize that we’re not done yet. There are still many more glass ceilings to be broken.