George Brown College Chef School study identifies reasons for male dominance in culinary sector 

Toronto, ON (October 27, 2011) — While studies have shown that men occupy a disproportionate number of Toronto’s executive culinary positions and are paid more than their female counterparts, aspiring female chefs should not be discouraged.

According to a report released today by the George Brown Chef School in collaboration with the George Brown College Office of Applied and Institutional Research, the gender and pay gap that currently exists at the executive chef level in professional kitchens can be remedied by promoting self-advocacy in female chefs while also encouraging restaurants and businesses to respect the unique work-life balance and parental leave needs that are particular to the incoming Gen Y workforce.

The research, conducted by Chef Deborah Reid and alumnus Lauren Wilson, was inspired by the predominance of males in the ranks of the world’s most recognized chefs and the imbalance between the number of female students entering culinary education and those occupying senior roles in the industry.

According to the study, 37 per cent of the total George Brown College Chef School Fall 2010 enrolment was comprised of women – double the percentage currently represented in industry. While there was no shortage of ambition and career focus in either the male or female respondents, the survey confirmed findings that females often lack the self-promotion skills that can be a great benefit to getting ahead.

“Even though mentorship is important to both the male and female chefs, men are benefiting more in terms of the kind of mentorship they receive,” said Reid. “While women are looking more for career guidance from their mentors, men are getting ahead by promoting their skills to their superiors, who then, in turn, help them advance.”

The report also suggests that parental or family obligations are a major obstacle for women looking to grow in this industry. According to the research, only 37 per cent of men felt that women were underrepresented in this field due to family demands, while 64 per cent of women agreed with this statement. This difference, however, is juxtaposed with the 89 per cent of men who agreed that they should share the family responsibilities at home.

“We discovered that the gender imbalance in this industry was also a value imbalance,” added Reid. “Members of Generation Y are just as ambitious as Baby Boomers in this industry, but their value system is different. This generation, both men and women, have a different view on work-life balance, family and gender equality. Historically, parental leave has been a deal breaker for a female's career in professional kitchens.  While more flexibility there would be beneficial for females, there is also an increase in interest and willingness in males to take on more parental responsibility. We need to make sure that these values are recognized by industry to ensure that the best in this field can succeed.”

In an effort to expand on the results of this research and to promote change in the industry, Reid and Wilson have been awarded further funds by their sponsors to continue their work by creating curriculum at the George Brown Chef School directed towards diversifying leadership in the culinary field, while encouraging long-term career engagement for females in professional kitchens.

The official report, along with an illustrated version with supporting graphics, is available at

George Brown College’s Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts is one of Canada’s leading culinary arts and hospitality training schools. The college has a long track record graduating top talent and emerging stars serving in restaurants, hotels, convention centres, pastry shops and kitchens around the world, and has produced many top chefs and hospitality professionals, including Mark McEwan, Jamie Kennedy, Alexandra Feswich, Randy Morton and Minaz Abji.

About George Brown College
Toronto’s George Brown College has established a reputation for equipping students with the skills, industry experience and credentials to pursue the careers of their choice. From its two main campuses located across the downtown core, George Brown offers 148 full-time and 1,600 continuing education programs across a wide variety of professions to a student body of approximately 63,000 (including those enrolled in full-time, part-time and continuing education programs). Students can earn diplomas, post-graduate certificates, industry accreditations, apprenticeships and four-year bachelor degrees.