Women of all walks of life are all too familiar with the oft-repeated and sexist refrain that “a woman’s place is in the kitchen.” While this is clearly untrue and unwelcome to women who may be more comfortable programming an app or writing a novel than making a meal, many women have found their places in professional kitchens all around the world, and many more women in the food industry prop it up through roles as farmers, business owners, and servers.

Despite the sexist notion that women belong in the kitchen because of some preconceived notion of inherent domestic prowess, the food industry is plagued by terrible gender imbalances. Less than 7% of chef-restaurant owners in the United States are women, only a third of restaurants are owned by a majority of women, and in the era of the #MeToo movement, many women in the food industry have opened up about the aggressively masculine culture found in far too many kitchens. 

In the face of these appalling inequalities, what’s a feminist foodie to do? Supporting women in the food industry doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive, or even a dramatic break from your usual habits. Here are several ways to enjoy good food while also combating rampant patriarchy in the food industry.

Agricultural Level

Educating yourself on the realities of inequality in the food industry is a good place to start in your quest to lift up women. The story of food neither begins nor ends with a restaurant’s kitchen or a dish on a dinner table, and learning about the ingrained nature of sexism at every level of modern food systems will best allow you to find ways to empower all women involved in the production of food. Women involved in agriculture are often left behind in discussions of gender inequality, to the detriment of everyone—the work that farmers, planters, and pickers do is absolutely essential to getting food on the table.

Globally, women make up 43% of the agricultural workforce but receive less than 10% of the credit offered to small farmers. This gender imbalance imperils productivity and food security everywhere, and supporting initiatives to provide women in agriculture with more resources and recognition would help reverse this trend.

Pay attention to and support the work of groups like the Global Forum on Agricultural Research's Gender in Agriculture Partnership, a collection of more than 150 institutions studying gender inequality in agriculture and working to give women equal opportunities. If you can, support the creation of and be sure to watch the documentary "Women's Work: The Untold Story of America's Female Farmers" when it comes out. Through this, women's stories can be told and more people can gain an understanding of what it means to be a woman in agriculture. 

Kitchen Level

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Just as you should look to support restaurants owned by women, you should actively seek out restaurants where women run the kitchen. Fortunately, the number of woman chefs has been on the rise in recent years, and they happen to make some of the best food around. Resources like womenchefs.org exist to connect them with each other and publicize the amazing things they do. Consider it a national guide for awesome restaurants run by women. In the Bay Area specifically, check out Brenda’s French Soul Food, The Cook and Her Farmer, Souley Vegan, or Flea Street Café for tasty meals made by women.

It is important to remember that feminism must be intersectional in order to mean anything, and the same goes for supporting women in the food industry—it would be a great disservice to the many amazing women of color working in the food industry if I did not explicitly highlight their contributions. Luckily for all of us, the Bay Area is home to many amazingly talented WOC chefs. Many of the previously listed restaurants are either owned by women of color or feature women of color as chefs. But if you’re looking for even more opportunities to support WOC in the kitchen, check out Belinda Leong’s b.patisserie for some of the nation’s best pastries, or Pim Techamuanvivit’s Kin Khao for her Michelin star-rated Thai dishes in the heart of San Francisco.

The Bay Area is also home to La Cocina, an organization dedicated to increasing representation of women of color and immigrant women in the food industry. It does so through sponsoring restaurants and providing aspiring chefs and restauranteurs with the resources and guidance they need to get the ball rolling. They’ve had astonishing success thus far, and there are even several La Cocina-sponsored eateries in the basement of UC Berkeley’s own MLK Student Center. They also sponsored the San Francisco Street Food Festival last fall and highlighted the work of many of their restaurants. La Cocina is also always looking for volunteers, and working as one is a great way to actively lift up women of color working in the food industry and help diversify kitchens across the Bay Area.

Service Level

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The last major tier of the food industry is the service level. Women make up a staggering 70% of food servers but make, on average, about $4,000 less than their male counterparts. Waitresses experience disproportionately high levels of sexual harassment, with up to 90% of women saying they’ve experienced it on the job, and many felt forced to accept harassment as a reality of working for tips.

In order to combat this, restaurants should be more conscientious about power dynamics between customers and waitresses and more proactive in protecting their employees through instituting things like anti-sexual harassment training. This should go without saying, but as a customer, treat your waitress with respect. Be extra conscious of your actions given the realities of sexual harassment in the food service sector. 

Much of the sexism at the service level stems from a lack of institutional protections for waitresses, so doing your best to overcorrect for these inadequacies in your interpersonal interactions with waitresses is of the utmost importance.

So, there you have it: easy ways to support women in the food industry. Made strategically, small shifts in behavior can have enormous ripple effects and can help change the reality of what it means to be a woman working in the food industry.