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International Women's Day 2024


Gemma Evans-Hurley - Head of Culinary, Dine Contract Catering and Compass’ Women in Food Network Chair

As seen in The Caterer – Viewpoint

I’ve been a chef for 20 years and honestly, I love it every single day and I have the absolute privilege of being surrounded by other amazing, talented and dedicated people, many of which are women.

Since starting out, there is a marked difference in the number of female chefs in our kitchens and there are some truly brilliant role models to learn from and inspire our future talent.

I look forward to International Women’s Day every year, because it’s an opportunity to celebrate our successes as a sector, but also within Compass the impact our Women in Food network has made in attracting, retaining and supporting women. We give kudos to those who have something to shout about and get behind the annual theme across Compass.

We first launched Compass’ Women in Food network in 2016, to attract and promote female chefs, but since then we’ve widened the remit to cover all roles across our business. The network now has over 370 members and what’s great to see is how diverse the network itself is. This means we’re listening to different points of view, but also spreading our reach and message wider.

Together, our network has helped launch and implement our menopause policy, support initiatives like WiHTL’s diversity programmes and encourage women to develop and progress aiding the D&I agenda.

As the Chair for Women in Food, one of the key challenges facing the industry is the entrenched kitchen culture, which often perpetuates stereotypes and biases. By leading the way with gender balance initiatives, we can challenge these norms and create environments where all individuals feel valued and empowered to thrive. 

A few years ago, I was getting a lot of feedback about the options for maternity clothes for work needing to improve – with many people being told to ‘just buy bigger sizes’. So now, I am absolutely delighted to be launching a bespoke maternity jacket for women designed by women. This is a great example of how we’ve listened to what our female workforce is telling us and gone out and created a solution. I have personally spent two years researching and working with pregnant colleagues, with designers and manufacturers - to get this right.

The jacket’s features include tailored arms, detail on the shoulders and popper fastenings for health and safety. Elasticated lining to allow for pregnancy growth and functionality that lends itself to breast-feeding or pumping, if needed. The jacket has also been made in a unique lightweight material that helps dissipate heat and promotes airflow, maintaining the wearer’s body temperature at 37.5oC, making the jacket suitable not only for pregnant colleagues, but for those returning to work postpartum and anyone working through perimenopause and menopause. I believe this maternity jacket will help colleagues feel more comfortable at work and also send a positive message of support for them.

Importantly, we are stepping up our monitoring of the impact of the steps we are taking to ensure interventions are working.  Our Mission to A Million commitment strives to positively impact 1 million lives by 2030, with bold targets around diversity. This will hold us to account and ensure complete transparency and I would love to see more of this across our industry, to help us continue the momentum in attracting more female chefs into the sector and enabling them to become role models themselves.

It's important we continue to achieve change, as well as put ourselves forward as mentors and drive support for our female talent… there is so much of it out there.

We are working to inspire inclusion and ensuring a spotlight is shone on equity. Ultimately leading the way with gender balance is not just a moral imperative; it's also a strategic advantage. Studies have shown that diverse teams are more innovative, creative, and better equipped to tackle complex problems. 

By embracing this and breaking down barriers for women, we not only foster a more inclusive industry, but also unlock the full potential of our workforce.

Gemma Evans-Hurley - Head of Culinary, Dine Contract Catering and Compass’ Women in Food Network Chair