Celebrating International Women’s Day with Elles sont food
With over five years of activity and over 350 members, Elles sont food has provided a platform for women in the food industry in France and around the world. The collective spoke to SIAL Newsroom about their progress so far and the hard work ahead.
Happy International Women’s Day. To start could you tell us about Elles sont food?
Many women work in the food sector, but often in the shadows, sometimes in isolation, without daring to step into the spotlight. While travelling we realised that in other countries, women in the food industry were gathering to exchange ideas, support each other, speak up, and mobilise themselves.
However, such a community bringing together all women in the food industry did not yet exist in France. So in 2017, a collective of ten women decided to create Elles sont food! (They are food!), a 1901 law association to reveal, promote, and connect female talents in the food industry.
Could you tell us about the progress made by Elles sont food since last year?
In 2022 we proudly nurtured a reflection on the role of women in the food industry by revealing and promoting female talents, speaking at conferences, supporting and promoting professional women’s initiatives in the sector and organising gatherings in establishments run by women.
Today, Elles sont food! brings together 350 amazing members with diverse backgrounds, reflecting the diversity of food-related professions.
How are women’s roles evolving in the food industry?
Although there is still progress to be made, we have seen in recent years a rise in the visibility of women in the food industry.
More and more women are interested in our sector: more managers, female chefs, pastry chefs, bakers, farm managers, winemakers, sommeliers, and more and more women are enrolled in hotel and agribusiness schools.
However, we regret that there are so few consolidated studies highlighting concrete figures on which we can rely. It would be very useful and revealing to have an understanding globally, or by segment, such as restaurant, agriculture, wine and champagne, baking. These are valuable pieces of information.
Every year, we monitor and reference the number of women rewarded and valued by gastronomic guides such as Michelin, Gault & Millau, La Liste, Le Fooding, as well as media articles highlighting women of the food sector or emerging initiatives led by or putting forward female talents.
We see that things are changing, too slowly but surely, and media coverage encourages young generations to enter the food industry and create inspiring role models.
There are many obstacles for women in the food industry. Would you like to mention one issue to be addressed in particular?
The agro-industry plays a crucial role in the economy and food sovereignty of countries.
However, in many countries, it is increasingly difficult to attract and retain talents in this industry.
While a high number of female graduates enter the job market from agriculture and agronomy schools, it is noted that female graduates face difficulties in reaching the highest levels of organisations. However, countless studies show that the most diverse organisations are also the most high-performing and innovative.
With the context of inflation and the role of food in combatting climate challenges, it is more urgent than ever to attract a diversity of talents to the industries to feed the world.
Hence, the importance of highlighting female role models, through events such as SIAL, for example, of rethinking management styles and organisations to make them more inclusive and welcoming for everyone.
What are your priorities for the future?
In 2023, we want to pursue our goals and be even more engaged.
One goal is to foster more Elles sont food exchanges and meetings, as well as increase the visibility of women in organisations and media, and continue to share the experiences and expertise of female talents who are shaping the food industry today and tomorrow.
We also want to encourage women to showcase their dreams, their own personality, to feel legitimate in expressing their talents and designing paths that reflect their ambitions without being penalised by gender stereotypes.
Beyond that we want to go further in building a more inclusive sector, promoting diversity within the food industry so teams where women and men, young and old, lifelong professionals and career changers, and people from different backgrounds can mix and bring their perspectives and skills to contribute to success.
How important is collaborating outside your collective for furthering the cause?
There are no exact similar collectives as Elles sont food, but many amazing initiatives in the food sector exist. Working with collectives is very important to us. We often partner with other associations, groups, organisations or food media to work hand in hand.
We present ourselves as the “community of professionals in the food industry” as we believe that it is essential to move ahead as a community, sharing common values and interests, exchanging ideas and making decisions together.
What does an ideal food industry look like for Elles sont food?
March 8th is an opportunity, once a year, to put the topic of women’s rights at the heart of conversations.
We can only hope that one day women will have acquired the rights they are entitled to and that it will no longer be necessary to celebrate it once a year. Then, on that day, there will no longer be a need for “Elles sont food” either.
In the meantime, we want to unite our energies and continue to build a supportive community around all women in the food industry and translate it into concrete actions, every day of the year.