Female Restaurateurs Say It’s Tough To Advance In A Male-Dominated Field

By Alison Bowen
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Chicago restaurateur Rohini Dey spelled out just how far the restaurant industry still has to go in advancing and supporting women. Dey says just 7 percent of the leading executive chefs are female.

CHICAGO

Women in the hospitality industry gathered recently at the iO Theater to talk about advancing female leadership in an industry dominated by men.

The list of topics alone reflected the variety of issues women experience that their male counterparts rarely encounter, sexual harassment, the need to practice self-defense, what to say when a colleague calls you a profanity.

Chicago restaurateur Rohini Dey spelled out just how far the restaurant industry still has to go. Just 7 percent of the leading executive chefs are women, she said.

“The woman restaurateur is a rarity,” said Dey, who opened Vermilion restaurant in River North in 2004.

Women should aim not only to run restaurants, she said, but also to own them. And she said many conversations set the bar too low. For example, she said ending sexual harassment would be a beginning, not an end goal.

“That’s not our aspiration for ourselves, is not to be harassed,” she said. “I think in a way we are setting our goals too low.”

In a Chicago Tribune article this year, city chefs detailed their own experiences with sexual harassment and the role it plays in restaurant culture.

The event, part of a Bacardi-sponsored series highlighting women in leadership, aimed to both celebrate and protect women who work in restaurants and bars. The five-city tour began in February; after dates in Houston, Miami, and San Francisco, it finishes in New York in April.

Charna Halpern, co-founder and artistic director of the iO Theater, told the crowd she didn’t consider her gender detrimental as she rose through a male-dominated industry.

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