Challenges Faced by Female Chefs in the Kenyan Hospitality Industry: A Study Through an African Oral Tradition of Storytelling
Female chefs experience many challenges in the male-dominated chef profession. Research shows that female chefs face challenges of promotion, low pay, work-life balance, burnout and sexual harassment (Fungai, Monica, & Zengeni, 2013; Harris & Giuffre, 2010; Murray‐Gibbons & Gibbons, 2007). This research aims to investigate whether the challenges that female chefs in Kenya are similar to the experiences of female chefs elsewhere, as suggested by studies in Zimbabwe (Fungai et al., 2013), in the UK (Murray‐Gibbons & Gibbons, 2007) and in the US (Harris & Giuffre, 2010). Identifying these challenges could help managers tackle issues effectively, thereby attracting more female chefs to the profession and enabling their opportunities and career prospects in the hospitality industry.
The study is grounded within an African feminist theory that highlights issues of African women. Using a qualitative research approach through the African oral tradition of storytelling, 15 chefs were interviewed. The study was conducted in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city.
The findings suggest that the lack of Kenyan female chefs may be attributed to a myriad of challenges such as patriarchal attitudes, hospitality career stereotyping, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, unhealthy work environment, hierarchical kitchen structure, inefficient and traditional methods of production, work-life balance and ill health due to overwork. The longevity of female chefs in the hospitality industry is therefore threatened as female chefs seek opportunities elsewhere, including becoming housewives.
The study further suggests that while hospitality schools train, female chefs suffer from the Kenyan hospitality industry’s reluctance/refusal to absorb female chefs into the job market. Contrary to this, female chefs are viewed as creative and passionate about their work. Therefore, an environment that does not accommodate female chefs suggests the hospitality industry stands to miss out on the skills of female chefs. The country’s economy also loses when qualified female chefs cannot help in building the economy.