Women Chefs = Cherchez La Femme!

We Did It!!! We Did It! was the front page of The New Economist, first week of January 2010.

"During the second world war, when America’s menfolk were off at the
front, the government had to summon up the image of Rosie the Riveter,
with her flexed muscle and “We Can Do It” slogan, to encourage women
into the workforce. Today women are marching into the workplace in ever
larger numbers and taking a sledgehammer to the remaining glass
ceilings." The New Economist.

Ok, but what about power and leadership? Cherchez la femme!

The first thing that came to my mind was the article from The Harvard Business Review, December 2009 and the discussion that followed Women CEOs.Why so few? (referred to it in a previous post about Meg Whitman)

As I began writing my series on Women Speakers, I started collecting stories, data and examples of charismatic women leaders.

There are two examples of places, other than business, where Women Leaders could be but are still invisible or in minority.

  • In Cooking, as Women Chefs
  • In Music, as Women Conductors

I found it intriguing that around the same time, end of 2009, beginning of 2010, so many articles made the headlines with "Where are the Women Chefs? "I decided to look for them, and guess what, I found plenty!

Where? In France, of course, more precisely in Lyon! (it's a very "etnocentric" approach, I admit, but it will give you the opportunity to learn about French Women!)

  • In Cooking, as Women Chefs

Food for Thought: Who are The Top Women Chefs? -The Huffington Post November 2009.In this article, you will discover why so few women reach and stay at the Top.

My 3 conclusions :

It's still a man's world, and even a very "macho" one

Very few men deal well with the fact of being married to a Chef

Women have to chose between their restaurant and their private life

 Let me introduce you to some of my home town 's history. The role of women in French gastronomy (as well as in all the cultures around the world!) is huge and most of the time restricted to the home kitchen. When you enter a **** restaurant, you expect to see a male Chef wearing the Toque!

With les "Mères Lyonnaises", it's another story.

ladies were originally house cooks for Lyon’s rich and affluent
families, however during the second half of the 19th century they began
to pursue their own ventures and set up their own businesses.

filling tables at Compagnons du Tour de France, they demonstrated to
all how to make cooking simple and subtle, with dishes such as “la
poularde en vessie” or “les cardons à la moelle”…

 From 1921, Eugénie Brazier,MereFrazier the mère Brazier, began to cater to
gastronomes and ambassadors such as General de Gaulle and Mayor Edouard
Herriot became fans of her cooking.

Paul Bocuse, a world renowned chef from Lyon, began his career at her stoves.

Other famous Mères lyonnaises include la mère Blanc, la mère Fillioux, la mère Poupon, la mère Léa, la grande Marcelle.

("mère" means "mother"…)

Where is the progress in the Feminism today?

Here's a list of Women conductors , with some 300 names — but still
falling short of completeness. The source is the
Kapralova Society, a Canadian organization dedicated to promoting women
music: http://www.kapralova.org.

Let me now introduce you to Claire Gibault, (yes, I know, she's also linked to Lyon!):

Woman Chef in Lyon, first woman conductor and now a European MP.200px-Bayrou_Bercy_2007-04-18_n30

"Starting as chorus master of the Lyon Opéra, Gibault rose to staff conductor there as assistant to
John Eliot Gardiner
In 1995, she became the first woman to conduct the La Scala orchestra
on the occasion of the creation of the Opera "La Station Thermale" by
Fabio Vacchi and in 1997 she became the first woman ever to  conduct the musicians of the Berlin
Philharmonic Orchestra
with the Opera "Jacob Lenz" by Wolfgang Rihm."

I wanted to share these two examples with you, just like Lilian Thuram, former French football player, did with his book, "Mes Etoiles Noires" (My Black Stars, from Lucy to Obama), released in January 2010, not yet translated in English

These women are my Women Stars.

In a world where little girls grow up learning from history , science , philosophy, literature and arts books with a big majority of male role models, how can they grow into confident women and embrace leadership roles in their society?

How do I commit myself to promote women's leadership and boost their confidence?

  • I support The Hot Mommas project, I am Country manager for Europe.Collecting and sharing teachable role models for girls/women.

Learn and discover about this exciting and innovative project in one my blog post, where you can watch the Everyday Revolutionary Hot Mommas and see how YOU can contribute by nominating a Hot Momma!

  • I'm Vice President of The WPNG, a Professional Women's Networking Group in Lyon, for anglophone women, organizing  conferences and promoting women speakers
  • Whenever I can, I help women boost their confidence and achieve their goals, while improving their presentation skills. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a woman, previously lacking confidence stand up and speak assertively!

How can you promote women around you, at the work place?

I'm waiting for your comments!

5 thoughts

  1. My first thoughts went to the movie “Julie and Julia” Not only was Child not welcome – she was absolutely discourage by the woman who owned the school. I often think that it is our fellow women who are our own worst enemies. Fortunately, they are also are great supporters and allies.
    I find myself less actively involved over the years with the woman’s movement, per se, but I maintain my networks both formal ones and those that are friendships with years of memories. I no longer sit on these Boards or focus my work on woman’s issues. Still, I find that much of my work is with women leaders and executives.
    I suppose then, it is not surprising that 70% of those completing my Success Survey were women. Besides Twitter and LinkedIn -those are the networks I tapped… my women relationships. You can track my ongoing analysis at: http://www.eclecticchange.com/success/

  2. Marion, thanks. Your post is packed with a lot of great information!
    Interestingly, my client mix is almost the opposite of Roberta’s: about 85% male. I think this is true for these reasons:
    – I happen to love men. Not in THAT way, but mostly when they’ve discovered that what used to work for them no longer does. Generally, this means that they need to take on some of the softer skills that have been previously attributed to women.
    – I work in a lot of male-dominated industries, included pharma and engineering.
    – Most senior managers are men (I work from mid-level up through the C-suite).
    I often wonder if they can grasp working with a strong female coach (and business owner), see that she has something to bring to the table – will that change their (often subconscious)thinking about women in leadership positions?

  3. Interesting MJ, I am actually coaching more men here in Europe. I have always found that men are much more open with a woman coach. I have seen those same men with other male coaches and it often starts to look like a “pissing” contest. Please, don’t get me wrong, my male colleagues try very hard not to engage.
    I also coach in a male dominated industries (having come from Hi Tech, Science, Telecommunications, Research) but historically with women trying to figure it out. Perhaps that is because while I represented the supposedly softer side, I was never very “touchy feely” myself. You know this – maybe I have mellowed a little.

  4. Thanks Marion for generating a great discussion. I’m finding some of the same things as Roberta and Mary Jo and some differences as well.
    1. I too work with many men as coaching and consulting clients. Several years ago I conducted research on what men and women think women leaders are bringing to leadership practices. The responses pointed overwhelmingly to the importance of relational competencies. Men said that not only are these skills more important as a result of the presence of women, but the men I spoke to said they are learning to improve from women. So, it makes sense that men are working to integrate relational competencies AND turning to women coaches to do so.
    2. I work with many women as well, but here’s the catch. A number of them seek coaching independently from the corporate umbrella. I have several observations and ways of making meaning of this. Some of my women clients have more problems with and/or feel more dissatisfaction with the prevailing culture. They want to be free to explore this arena and coaching on the corporation’s nickel limits the freedom they need. In addition, women often still feel “lucky” to have high level jobs and are often reluctant to ask for more – whether it’s money, benefits, or coaching. Quick example – the other day I suggested to a woman that she negotiate a higher salary. THE IDEA NEVER OCCURRED TO HER. Once it did, however, she knew exactly what approach to use with her manager. She was spot on and received a 15% increase. He named the amount.
    I’m sure there are more ways to see these differences and look forward to more comments on your post.
    Anne Perschel (@bizshrink)
    Leadership and Business Psychologist
    Unstoppable force advancing savvy women leaders who pay it forward, back and sideways.

  5. Roberta, Mary Jo and Anne, thank you so much for joining the conversation here!
    First, Roberta.
    It’s true that women can be their worst enemies, and fortunately, as your survey shows, more and more willing to collaborate and the first to provide support.
    I’ve writen a post about “Women at work: cooperation or competition?” http://www.geronimocoaching.com/2009/02/index.html
    Mary Jo:
    I love the idea of you planting the seeds of “women in leadership positions”in senior managers ‘ representations.
    It’s clever way to implement change in mentalities, among Gen X and Baby Boomers Male managers.
    Then, Anne.
    What I mostly appreciate about your comment, is your ability to embrace both the masculine and the feminine sides.
    A perfect integration of the Yin and the Yang!
    I agree with you, Roberta and Mary Jo that ” men are working to integrate relational competencies, and turning to women coaches”.
    Women don’t know how to ask for what they want: maybe that’s the number one skill they need to learn?
    see this recent article in Forbes “Is it more effective to network like a man (ask) or like a woman (give and take)
    I thought you’d ALL like that quote:
    “If you know what you want, ask for it. Drop the small talk. And if you are going to make small talk, make boy small talk, not girl talk. And get to the point.” Helen Fischer
    Women definitely would benefit from taylored leadership development programmes, suited to their specific needs.
    I mostly work with Gen X and Gen Y women managers, moving to advanced management positions. Usually very well educated, often with a double degree, engineering and business, sometimes an MBA. They are in their 30s and juggle between too many “roles”.They both crave for more recognition of their achievements and lack of self-enhancement.
    I “love women” as much as you love men!
    I like the idea of expressing their feminine power,with compassion, creativity and determination.
    There’s an opportunity today, with Millennials, both men and women, to change representations about women in leadership positions.
    That will be the subject of my next post!

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