Sexism In the Service Industry
Servers, bartenders, cooks, chefs, hosts, bussers; all jobs that many people will have worked at some point. I myself been in the service industry for 5 years now and can see myself being in it for years to come. It didn’t take 5 years however to realize that what women experience in the industry and many others for that matter are incredibly different than our male counterparts.
My first brush with this came a few years back when I was 20 and just becoming interested in the idea of being a sommelier (a wine expert). I was serving and a much older bartender with many industry connections said he’d be able to help me meet people and advance my endeavors. He did just that but then became quickly agitated when I would reject his advances and refused to sleep with him. He said I owed him for all he had done for me. This same restaurant for a period of time also required cocktail servers to wear heels and restaurant servers to wear a full face of makeup.
I then had an experience where a married man who worked in the back of the house would comment on how great my body looked and how “thick” I am. I would be doing something as simple as getting plates off of a shelf and he would whistle at me. When I called him out in a very calm and concise matter and explained how uncomfortable that made me, he became extremely defensive, said it was ‘just a joke’ and told me I was being dramatic.
Those are just a few examples of fellow coworkers being inappropriate. Restaurant guests are an entirely different story. I have had men patronizing the establishments grab my waist, hip, arm, ask me if I’m “on the menu”, give me their phone numbers, wait for my outside of my job, insist that I should quit my jobs and let them take care of me. It goes on and on. The sick part is, a lot of it goes by the wayside for fear of retaliation in the form of not tipping. The unfortunate reality is that most women will be forced to simply deal with the misconduct because not doing so can result in a $0/per hour wage and continued mistreatment.
Luckily the place I work now has zero tolerance for harassment whether it be from employees or restaurant guests but that doesn’t mean the sexism stops. I recently did an interview that a local writer was conducting about being a female in the service industry and one of the questions was the standard what do you find most challenging about your industry? It’s honestly a loaded question but my response was, the constant assumption that people in higher roles must be men. Coming from a restaurant where the head chef and the beverage leads are women, it can be very frustrating to so frequently hear things like "The chef is fantastic, give him my regards." "Do you have a sommelier; can you tell him to come by?"
Why is it that women in general are expected to be superior cooks at home and yet the idea of a women being a head chef in a restaurant is still astounding to some? It's a problem that extends far beyond the food and beverage industry but hopefully will continue to be mitigated. It’s 2018 after all. My advice for women in male dominated industries is to learn as much as you can and become the very best at what you're doing because at the end of the day people can’t ignore greatness. Don’t put up with any kind of inappropriate behavior and if you don't get the support you need from higher ups; know when to move on.