A photo of Cristina Bowerman from a few years back. The request is always the same: respect, gender equality. In her opinion, however, this must be reached through meritocracy
A sheep’s call. That’s exactly what I hear every time people speak of women, and of gender equality. A sheep’s callis what I hear every time men justify why women don’t have the place they deserve.
I was sitting among the crowd at the 50Best Talks in Paris, the other week, and what I heard did not surprise me: the same old story on the state of the art and on how «yes, you must believe it, things are changing». Then the members of the panel pointed out how they are always very generous in giving us places inside their kitchens, and reassuring us that this sexist world will end soon and then, yes, there will be real gender equality!
I often ask myself how we got to this point; the theme of gender equality has been addressed for years, and the improvements have been truly minimal. There’s nothing you can do about it: we cannot overcome this impasse that perhaps was due to different physical strength, but this was ages ago. Or perhaps it’s human nature that needs to classify everything and so roles are a necessity: the weak (women) and the strong. Perhaps there’s a million reasons... What remains impossible to explain is how, even though this is an extremely current topic, there were only men in the panel in Paris. A faux pas. Nobody realised it at first, and they thought things would end as usual. But then instead…
The all-male panel at the 50Best Talks
This resulted in a “small room with a view” on the reality of every day. It’s a paradox: despite facing this issue daily, it seems that for the first time in the world, our world of food, they have noticed that there is a clear and even big issue, and that perhaps there’s a further domino effect under way. It is equally clear that the chefs of the new generation do not perceive this problem because in their opinion, and they’re right at this too, there isno issue.
Today, however, I don’t want to focus on what will be done and what is done every day to finally reach gender equality: there’s an endless list of women and men who fight every day to give a real meaning to meritocracy. The question I would like to address instead is how come the careful organisers missed the fact that the panel was all testosterone.
I’m very sure the organisers did everything in the best possible way, and that they believe in gender equality (indeed, the organising firm has women in prominent roles too, it’s clear). This slip made me think, and my inner voice screamed “Hey, told you: wrong direction!”
The comic posted (later becoming viral) a few months ago by Indian millionaire Anand Mahindra, president of the Mahindra Group. His goal: prove that in the obstacle race women, especially if mothers, in order to move on with their careers must face many obstacles, even when men have a clear road ahead of them
I believe this slip is the result of a wrong direction, for which the appearance may be changing, but not substance. The creation of a safeguarded female category in many fields (pink quotas) often has counterproductive effects and neutralises the only valid rule, in my opinion: meritocracy. Again, in my opinion, creating awards for women does not reach the desired goal. As a woman I don’t want to be considered as a minority, as a category that needs protection. When the required skills do not imply running for 100m in 20 seconds or lifting 25kg sacks of flour (and by the way, please tell you know who that the gesture of lifting is always the same: bend, hold, lift. Whether it’s a sack of flour, a child or a dog).
In other words: we’re speaking of skills that go beyond human strength. Luckily. And that’s even though even these days, for unknown reasons, word is given to people who clearly have a sexist approach. Womanizers who monopolise newspapers, panels, television and have more space than those, men and women, who could represent a positive cultural example, one worth following. They’re the ones who could really inspire women and men to imagine a world in which, if you’re worth it, you go ahead, and that’s it. There must be a common and aggregating effort, and with no compromises: ask without shame is my motto.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso
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Glass Hostaria's chef (one Michelin star), located in Rome. President in charge of the Ambasciatori del Gusto association