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Celebrating women in the kitchen

15 March 2016

Last week we celebrated International Women’s Day. I only just found out that there is also an International Men’s Day (November 19th if you want to know) but I haven’t known any men to really make a big deal about it.

As a working mother I’ve always found these events rather odd. Nevertheless we celebrated with a very special event at Cannonball – supper with the wonderful Valentina Harris and a panel of some of Scotland’s most pioneering woman in food and cooking; Shirley Spear of The Three Chimneys, Denise Walton from Peelham Farm, Fiona Richmond from Scotland Food & Drink and food writer Sumayya Usmani.

Now this might seem a bit negative and, for those of you who know me, I am anything but negative, I think there are two camps of woman.  Those who just get on with it and try to juggle being a mother, wife and businesswoman, whilst still managing to do the housework, and those women who champion on our behalf – raising awareness of the glass ceiling, our equal pay opportunities and maternity leave rights. They look after us.

Out of our senior management team at Continis I’m very proud that only four out of 13 posts are held by men (sorry guys). Our Head of Sales, Head of Events, Executive Chef, Executive Manager, Head Gardener at the Scottish Kitchen Garden and Head of Finance and Accounts are all fantastic ladies.  

Are we unique in our industry to be fortunate to work with so many woman, or do woman just attract women? I wouldn’t say we’re unique but I’d say we’re fair and help champion equal opportunities across the entire Contini business.

I adored my father, love my brothers, am lucky to have a hugely supportive husband and a wee boy who still cuddles me at 14! I’ve also chosen a career that has allowed me, as a woman, to have a very independant life. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy. The pressures of paying our 100+ strong team, paying suppliers and meeting all the legal requirements that a business of our scale needs is a challenge – never mind the main and most important task of keeping our customers happy!

Customer service is our number one priority and this, I’m glad to say, is lead by my husband Victor. He is our ‘Mr Front of House’. He can keep a tornado calm in a thunderstorm (and it’s me that’s usually the tornado).

So my summary is the women in our business have drive and determination. They know what they want and they’re not frightened to go and get it. Every day should be International Women’s Day if you ask me as it allows our team of strong and independent women to champion what we do so well.

What was interesting about all the woman last week at our event with Valentina was all have the view that there’s so much we still have to do to increase awareness of women in the food and drink and hospitality industry. There are some amazingly talented women out there who just need to be given the opportunity. From youngsters just starting out after college or a mum who’s looking for a hobby to fill her time while the kids are at school – all you have to do is give it a go.

Everyone has to start somewhere.