Women’s History Month is an annual observance by Women around the world a time to reflect on the struggles and hardships leveled against the female gender. The greatness of women is also celebrated, without the exemption of the achievements and progress they have made in the struggle against gender discrimination, and the other numerous problems women face, just for being women.
Breaking the bias the theme for this year’s Women’s History Month saw women speaking about the biases experienced in various sectors. This exclusive interview features Clara Kapelembe Bwali (Zambian), and Sonia Akpata Usmar (Nigerian) on breaking the bias against women in the food and beverage industry.
Sonia is a producer, director, and curator of the Food Journey Culinary Documentary Series.
MCZ: The bias being faced by women in the food space is it different from other industries?
SONIA: Bias can be for or against. I would like to offer that if it is a general conception it can apply individually or not. It depends largely on the base exposures and opportunities which line your pathway. It’s always about being bold and resolute and confident about your abilities and how to use them to your advantage.
MCZ: People tend to have the preconceived notion that the food space is dominated by Women. Is this so? Also, If the food space is women-dominated are women in the food space still expected to be facing such bias?
SONIA: Again the exact numbers of women to men is hard to calculate with such an evolving and expansive culinary industry. It’s rather a broad statement. We have to remember that the food industry doesn’t only include chefs it includes every and any discipline. From the people designing indigenous cookware to selling food in the street or restaurants or private catering businesses. It’s all-encompassing.
MCZ: Whom will you say is/are at the helm of affairs to break the bias Women face?
SONIA: Who is at the helm?. I believe it’s a collective notion, and that no one person is at the helm because of the vast set of categories types of discipline provenance, etc in the culinary industry also ruled by who gets the most visibility and or notoriety. One person cannot be at the helm.
It is a collective female contribution to this particular topic, which will continue to move the wheel at an exponential rate.
My hat is off to all of our women striving to do their best and excel in the Nigerian culinary industry and the groups and organisations striving to bring us together.
Clara is a Digital Creator, Food Stylist, Food Photographer, Creative Entrepreneur, Black Garlic.
MCZ: What are the biases you’ve faced as a Woman in the food space?
CLARA: The most common bias is people taking me seriously. As a food marketer, it means pitching to different organisations with different organisation dynamics. Sometimes the barrier is being female and whether or not I’m able to bring an impact that a particular organisation would require.
MCZ: For these biases to have gone on this long could it be as a result of silent culture?
CLARA: Definitely the silent culture could be a contributing factor. Not having conversations that matter as well as teaching our girls from a tender age that they could be anything they want to be. Not speaking out for our rights and what we deserve is another reason why these biases have gone on for so long.
MCZ: Why is it important to amplify the role of women and the bias they face in society?
CLARA: This is very important because every woman and girl will be aware of their environment any bias or mistreatment of any sort will be discussed and necessary steps will be taken to avoid such biases from happening.
Amplifying such biases women face will encourage them to step into roles with their heads held up high knowing they have a tribe of other women cheering them on.
MCZ: The importance of raising more awareness on the oppression women face across the world can’t be overemphasized but breaking the bias against women in the food space is it feasible?
CLARA: It’s differently possible the food space is looking promising. Women are taking sits in places they need to be.
The digital era has given birth to brilliant creators world over. The internet has allowed women to support each other worldwide as food is a universal language.
Collaborations are also another way women are breaking the bias, now more than ever women are collaborating in the food space and creating absolute magic.
The food scene is looking promising and it’s a pretty sight to see.
If one thing is certainly sure it is that Women are pushing the barriers and biases leveled against them. Women are making things work in every sector of the food and beverage industry even as representation matters in this day and age. The goal to break the biases is a collective thing that involves you and I. Creating habitable spaces for the female gender should be seen as a thing of importance and a matter of urgency that involves everyone.