It's a Man's World or It's My World ? |

It's a Man's World or It's My World ?

Relentless: showing or promising no end or reduction of discipline, intensity, strength, or pace

"It’s a man's world," my mother use to say, "use it to your advantage." I can’t tell you how many times growing up I heard that line in a variety of situations. Back in the 70’s, how many politicians, CEOs, SR. VP's, fire fighters, police, construction workers, military personnel or chefs were women? These careers were ruled and controlled by men. Trust me even today, in many kitchens, and other areas of the food service industry, this still holds true. Well think about it, what are some key principles in the foundation of the back of the house? Strength, agility, speed, dexterity and endurance. Now let's compare these qualities in a female vs. a male candidate. It's not discrimination it’s a legitimate concern and scientific fact. What I have experienced and learned through the years is that physical strength is every bit as important as your ability to think, your quickness to react, cleverness to correct, and resistance to remain calm, no matter what shit is hitting the fan. These are the same natural qualities displaced a different way. I was a strong girl who was pigheaded and persistent. I could lift the 8 gallon- 56# pot full of soup, grab the 50# bag of flour from the basement and carry it up 13 stairs to the pastry shop, pull 2 sizzling hot prime ribs out of the oven myself. I guess it proved what it needed to at the time, back in 1978 when I was blazing the virgin frontier. These actions are so unnecessary and irresponsible in today’s work place. Over those many years of physical abuse, I did irreversible physical damage to my body. I was stubborn and stupid, as were so many others in the culinary community. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of intelligence and common sense that will make you stronger in the long run. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Get your co-worker to help lift one side of whatever is heavy and you lift the other. Being headstrong or defiant will do nothing for your reputation, except give you the “she’s a bitch” reputation.
There is a fine line women walk between the reputation of BITCH vs SLUTTY. Here is a very real scenario that some of you have already faced and many of you will face in the future- nevertheless it's a terrific lesson to help understand and overcome this type of situation. Picture yourself in an executive boardroom, making senior decisions with a table full of men. You, as a woman, literally become invisible in this sea of men. They politely focus your way, giving you the top to bottom scan, they seem to listen, nodding their heads with acknowledgement pretending to care, taking your feedback into consideration, I think? There I am again, on line at the baseball field again, waiting to be picked on Danny or Charlie’s team having to prove myself again and again reinforcing my track record. Why, year after year, must I hit another home run instead of relying on my credentials, reputation and experience to allow me to just be another professional stating my opinion. Holy shit, do I have to grab my crotch and smoke a cigar with these boys? When will the acceptance be equal? When will they acknowledge who I am and what I have accomplished from the start? Never?
But then, be cautious of scenario number two. In that same situation if you come off too feminine, too sexy, too accommodating, too pleasant, you go from difficult to flirtatious. Look- she is trying to tease her way to success, give her a little to make her feel useful and then I can go after what I want! The interpretation shifts to a negative state, “ Oh she can’t do it on qualifications or experience, she needs to pull out the female card." This fine line is so thin I’m not sure it exists, that's why it's easy to miss. So what’s the message here? What the hell do you do in this situation? It seems hopeless, like there is no way these circumstances could ever change. My answer, and I say that genuinely, “my answer” is don’t walk the line, don’t even look for it….dress professionally. If you're meeting with chefs, sous chefs and cooks, keep your jacket buttoned, your hair ties back, posture straight and positive. If it's business attire, then wear a well thought out outfit that fits you with contemporary heels, not clubbing spike heals and include a conservative neckline, not "can you see the cleavage game." Keep your hair well groomed or tied back. You are trying to level the playing field not trying to “play the field." Be yourself, project your knowledge, your skills, show your humor, your charm, and your opinions 100% of the time. In displaying your true personality, no one can ever say you are playing games, or acting a certain way to get what you want. I love to have fun and act naturally when I work, that’s why I was attracted to the kitchen in the first place. You don’t need to participate in politics, act out phony friendships, play mind games or other fake complicated bullshit. Like me or hate me, but know where you stand at anytime or situation. If the boys around the boardroom aren’t listening, speak louder, be even more articulate, make a comment or joke about the situation, get them on YOUR FIELD playing in YOUR GAME. There is a reason you are in that room as perhaps the only female at your level. You have the ability and the intelligence to change the outcome of the situation. Yes girls, it's tough and that’s why we are in that position, we love the challenge, we crave the competition, that’s why we chose this destiny because it's not the normal easy path through life. Believe in yourself and be confident you can make a difference because your heart and soul are in the right place.


hlanek • 01/19/2011
If I am in this article, I hope I'm on the right side of the invisible line-Or I've spent too many years wearing my hair in a tight bun
simerman • 01/28/2011
I am the ONLY girl in the kitchen of 8 men. One of whom is the DM who has absolutely no respect for women, let alone women in the kitchen. I have been working there for almost 6 months and he has spoken maybe 5 words to me the entire time. So i completely appreciate this article. It motivates me to stick it out and show them what I'm capable ofThank you very much
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