Developing a model for analysing operational powers that lead to low participation of women in elite kitchens
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Literature on women's participation in the tourism and hospitality workplace highlights various imbalances although elite kitchens have received little attention. This thesis enhances knowledge on women's participation in elite kitchens in the United Kingdom through quantitative and qualitative analysis and an evaluation of the discursive constructs of expert industry observers. The thesis explores power mechanisms and the extent to which they support inclusive attitudes, raise expectations and support real employment opportunities for women. It also explores the multidimensional operation of forces that oppose women's participation and promote polarisation, alienation and detachment from the elite culinary arts workplace. Women occupied just 5% of head chef's positions in Michelin star restaurants. Successful women tended to be iconised and their achievements much celebrated. Yet, women's low participation at senior levels is longstanding, despite a raft of policies aimed at promoting gender equality. This thesis provides a rich picture of elite kitchens from a post-modern, contextual feminist perspective. Semi-structured interviews with expert industry observers provided in-depth insight into the complex and subtle ways in which the activity and inactivity of leaders and groups and the sheer weight of organisations - political, institutional and educational - served to perpetuate gender imbalance. Hard, quantitative data was used to show the true extent of gender imbalance. This thesis concludes that real employment opportunities did not exist for women because the mechanisms intended to support them were a mirage resulting in raised but unfulfilled aspirations. Reason was not being mobilised effectively in public debate to counter the power processes that perpetuated exclusion legitimising male domination, leaving women in a position of oppressed quiescence. This thesis makes a contribution to understanding women's choices and constraints and is a major contribution to the development of hospitality and catering studies.
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