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These days, it is common that women work in several kinds of industries. However, the rate of women in a high position is lower than men; the discrimination between men and women still exists. Women claim to have equal treatment in the workforce and equal pay. Employers discriminate women because they think women would quit soon after giving birth, and married women are busy with taking care of their children. In addition, they insist women are less talented, less useful, and weaker than men.
Therefore, they consider men are better as employees. To know the reason why this happens until now, we need to understand a brief history of working women.
“Before the Civil War, the role of women in society was different” (Shah). Women were considered to stay at home to look after their children and do household chores, while the men were the bread earners. However, the post-civil war began women to start working. A significant change in the workforce occurred after the Civil War.
African American women was an essential role in the labor force during this time. This is because they needed to earn money after they were freed from slavery. Other immigrants joined the workforce as well and performed in the service industry. However, employers hired white women usually for higher positions than people of color. After the civil war, many whites continued racism to African Americans and treated them unequally. This unequal treatment was even carried into the workforce.
The rise of factory took place in the arrival of industrialization.
It separated the home from the workplace and the importance of women’s economic role declined. In addition, “male and female spheres of activity became more separated, as did the definitions of men’s and women’s roles. Man’s role continued to be primarily that of worker and provider; women’s role became primarily supportive.” (Shaw and Lee 507) Women were seen too weak and delicate to survive in the men’s tough work world. “It was believed they lacked strength and stamina, that their brains were small, that the feminine perspective and sensitivity were liabilities in the marketplace.” (Shaw and Lee 508) This idea still exists in the cooking industry that will be explained later.
World War I allowed white women to enter new fields of industry. Since the men had to participate in the war, women replaced men at jobs in factories and business office. During this period, women could master the various new skills. The wartime labor shortage created new job opportunities for women, and at higher wages than they had earned before. However, the society and the government were not prepared for accepting women’s economic role so that they had to left as soon as peace returned. “When the men returned from the war, they were given priority in hiring, and although many women left the labor force voluntarily, many were forced out by layoffs.” (Shaw and Lee 510) Those who remained were employed in low positions with the low salary. Women’s jobs were mostly part-time and seasonal.
World War II was an important turning point in women’s participation in the paid labor force. The War Manpower Commission advertised women to the war industries. Equal work did not mean equal pay but more women learned to accommodate family and work at the same time. “However, at the war’s end, with the return of men to civilian life, there was a tremendous pressure on women to return to their former positions in the home.” (Shaw and Lee 510) In this period, “women at home” image became cherished rather than “at work” in American culture. Instead, women’s participation in the workforce still increased. After World War II, the percentage of married women in the workforce increased the most rapidly in any other period. “In 1940, about 15 percent of married women were employed; by 1950, 24 percent.
This increase has continued: by 1960, 32 percent of married women; in 1970, over 41 percent; in 1980, 50 percent; and by 1995 61 percent.” (Shaw and Lee 511) As the 20th century passed, more women entered in workplaces. Women gained powers by the Equal Pay Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (Shaw and Lee 479).
As you can see, more and more women are in the workforce as time goes by, and there are few boundaries for women to work in any industries. However, they are still underestimated and underrecognized in the culinary industry. Even though women are known for cooking, most top chefs are men. For instance, Chef & My Fridge is a South Korean cooking-variety program starring various chefs and celebrity guests. Twenty-one chefs have appeared in this program since 2014 and only one woman appeared until now. Another example is American dramas: Feed the Beast and Kitchen Confidential. These dramas are about cooking and kitchen, and the main characters or top chefs in the drama are all men. On Time magazine’s cover, there are no women chefs and the “Gods of Food” are all men. It is impossible that women’s cook are worse than men’s since cooking was regarded as a “women’s duty.”
“There’s no denying it: Professional cooking is a male-dominated sport” (Feit). Historically, women have always done the cooking at home but that has been seen as domestic and not a “real” job. According to Ann Cooper, author of A Woman’s Place Is in the Kitchen: The Evolution of Women Chefs, a full 45 percent of people working in the culinary industry are women, yet women hold less than 10 percent of the top positions. “According to the Office of National Statistics, only 17 percent of chef positions in the UK are held by women” (Morgan). In the United States, “over 60 percent of women have worked in the restaurant industry” (Schenkel), but only 19 percent of chefs and head cooks are women. From these different statistics, it is clear that there are more male chefs than women chefs, and that the top male chefs receive more praise and success than women.
There are several reasons why women are underestimated in the cooking industry:
First, in this patriarchal society, it has taken for granted that women are destined by their biology to be in charge of the home kitchen. Even a few years ago, “a wife who did not cook for her husband was looked at askance” (Whitney); a mother who did not cook for her children was an abomination. In contrast, it would be a special case if a man is good at cooking, and he is regarded as a professional. When done in the home, “cooking is associated more with women than men, but professional, high-status cooking has remained the domain of men despite inroads women have made into other traditionally male-dominated careers” (Broyles). It is regarded that only men have the technique, discipline, and passion that makes cooking consistently an art. In other words, women are incapable of elevating cooking to an art.
Second, women in the cooking world face the same difficulties that women in all industries face: Balancing work and family. Women are still the caregivers in families and have the responsibility in family matters. “Chefs work six to seven days a week, often for 12-14 hours at a time” (Broyles). The hours are structured around meal times, and many fine restaurants are only open at night. Despite the work time, most chefs do not earn that much money and many restaurants offer few benefits like health insurance, paid vacations and retirement plans. If women chefs have children, these conditions are not as appealing. Chefs in restaurants cannot leave even if their children are sick, and “few childcare centers are open when chefs are at work” (Broyles). Since taking care of children is still fall more on mothers, it is hard for women with children to be successful chefs. They are required to sacrifice on their careers for their families. Women chefs have two options: either leave the workplace or share the responsibility of looking after their children.
Third, it is related to men’s lifestyles. In men’s process of growth, they are not forced to be good at cooking. Men do not have any stress in cooking so that they are not overwhelmed. They could consider cooking as a fun sport so that they try cooking by their selves without recipes. Therefore, they have more opportunities to be interested in cooking, to know about cooking, and to study recipes. Unlike women, men are not expected to take care of their children. They could concentrate on working in the culinary industry rather than women do. Men are also regarded that they are physically and mentally stronger, tough, and passionate. Besides, since people are generous to men’s cooking and have low expectation on it, men are praised easily than women.
Lastly, no matter what industries, mostly men are in power positions. There are some reasons for it: “Sex stereotyping leads to resistance to women’s leadership” (Experteer Magazine). When women are in a leadership or management position, they are often tagged as selfish, aggressive, deceitful, and abrasive, whereas men are valued as charismatic and enterprising. “Another thing often heard is that women are not ambitious” (Experteer Magazine). This idea makes people think that women are hard to set and achieve goals. Another reason is the lack of mentors. The senior people are mostly men and they still tend to lead younger colleagues of the same sex. So they are “more supportive, encouraging, and helpful to young men” (Experteer Magazine). There is only a little space for women to squeeze in. Power positions are men’s league. These negative stereotypes about the work discourage women to stop advancing in their careers.
In conclusion, the most critical reasons that most chefs are men are the men’s process of growth and social atmosphere. House chores are no more women’s duties. No matter men or women, house chores are people’s duty if they are one of the house members. People have to change perceptions that women are weaker, less ambitious, and more foolish than men. Women could be leaders in the workforce, not only in the household. It is difficult to change these perspectives since they have been generalized historically for long generations. However, women have rights to get equal treatment in the workforce and equal employment. Women have abilities to be superior leaders. In addition, the poor kitchen in restaurants environment needs to be improved. Chefs deserve better treatment and more free time to have some rest and take care of their families regardless of men or women.
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