Texas State professors release book on gender equality

Lifestyle Reporter

Two Texas State professors are receiving a great deal of feedback after their book exposing gender in professional kitchens hit the national spotlight. 

Deborah Harris and Patti Giuffre, professors of sociology, worked together to write Taking the Heat: Women Chefs and Gender Inequality in the Professional Kitchen.

The book takes a look at how gender in the world of professional chefs is split, what circumstances have led to this exclusion, and how women chefs feel about what they do compared to their male counterparts.

Harris said she came to the university in 2007 as a sociology professor specializing in qualitative research methods, but has always enjoyed focusing on gender inequality research.

“The most common thing we found is that it’s really hard (for women) to break in and get respect in the kitchen,” Harris said.

Candy Cantrell, sociology graduate student, said the two professors were trying to understand how cooking, a job typically seen by society as women’s work, becomes a man’s job in a professional environment.

“The message is that (the book) tries to make people aware of the gender inequalities in professional kitchens,” Cantrell said. “(Harris and Giuffre) wanted to show how hard it was for women in a male-dominated workforce.”

Harris said they chose to focus on professional kitchens because gender inequality had already been covered in fields such as the military and police forces.

“Gender inequality has already been researched a lot in other professions,” Harris said. “This is something that is a woman’s job in the home, but a man’s out in the world, and that’s what got our attention.”

Harris said she and Giuffre found women often have to prove to their male colleagues that they are physically and emotionally tough enough to work in the high-stress environment.

Women chefs often devise a strategy to demand respect from the men in the kitchen, Harris said. They often refuse to cry because they don’t want to appear weak.

“When they move up and become head chef, it is really hard for them to get respect and to be treated like the boss,” Harris said. “There’s no crying in the kitchen.”

Cantrell said the book is meant to offer insight to people who lack prior knowledge on the subject.

“All people go to restaurants, all people eat food from chefs, but (when they read the book) they get to really see what happens in kitchens and just really get insight to how the sausage is made,” Cantrell said.

Harris said she plans to explore different types of chefs for her next study.

“There are cultural beliefs that women have a higher body temperature, so they shouldn’t be touching the fish because they would affect the temperature. And in a high-end sushi place, that’s not what you want,” Harris said.

Cantrell said the book would be a good read for anyone, especially individuals interested in educating themselves on gender inequality.

“It gives a voice to women who work in professional kitchens and shows all of the inequalities that they face every day,” Cantrell said. “It would also be helpful for any women that want to go into a male-dominated field.”

Follow Taylor Thompson on Twitter @tthompson437.