The food and beverage industry has long been male dominated. While women make up 71% of the waitstaff workforce in the United States, they hold a paltry 19% of head chef positions and less than 25% of leadership positions throughout the industry. 34% of respondents in a widespread survey of food + beverage manufacturing companies indicated that there were no women in leadership positions within their companies at all.
Until the 1970’s, women generally could not legally bartend or own a bar without the involvement of their husband or father, and just last year Charles Schumann took home the 2019 Best Industry Icon Award in spite of comments such as, “A bar is no place for a woman. The important characters are always men,” or this real gem: “[women] can come, but they are not wanted.”
As the industry continues to grow, businesses and individual women alike have taken steps to close the gender gap in ownership, management, manufacturing, distilling, and wholesaling.
In honor of International Women's Day, pour yourself a drink and check out these five books that will keep you educated, inspired, and ready to break the glass ceiling.
Drink Like A Woman - Jeanette Hurt
Part cocktail book, part exposé, this feminist read dives head first into the sexist history of the bar world while offering drink recipes from female bartenders throughout the U.S.
Best excerpt: The opening line - “There are no girly drinks.”
Butcher + Beast - Angie Mar
This cookbook from the owner and head chef of The Beatrice Inn in New York City reads like a love letter to her famed restaurant, if that love letter were part of a Vogue fashion spread. The unapologetic femininity of Ms. Mar coupled with her blatant hedonism and passion for her restaurant is enough to make any woman feel empowered.
Best excerpt: “But most important, my team and I have achieved what most chefs and restaurateurs wait a lifetime for. We bet on the underdog, and came out on top—in New York City, no less.”
Women on Food - Charlotte Druckman
A compilation of the industry’s most well known female voices, this collection of essays and interviews dives deep into the underrepresentation of women in food and its effect on our culture. Best of all, this touches on topics that are too often left out of the feminist conversation, addressing marginalization, race, and complacency of women head on.
Best excerpt: “Female chef [...] implies that chefs are normally or should be men (like female doctor, ugh). Can she just be called a chef?”
Give a Girl a Knife - Amy Thielen
This sweet memoir combines a coming of age tale with a kitchen career to be reckoned with, following it’s heroine from her midwestern roots to some of the best restaurants in New York City. Best excerpt: “When I asked Shea to order more small jackets, he said under his breath, “What are we, a kitchen of midgets?” No Chef, I thought, just a bunch of nerds and one short woman.”
Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey - Fred Minnick
One of my personal favorite books, this fascinating and easy-reading work of non-fiction will leave you feeling proud of what women have accomplished and hopeful for a more equal future.
Best excerpt: “Women were the first distillers.”
For those who prefer to curl up with a mystery novel than a collection of historical essays (because don’t we all sometimes?), this one’s for you:
Dive Bar Detective - Archer Hay
This fun, relatable novel follows a loveable bartender and her familiar cast of “regulars” through a humorous whodunnit mystery. Anyone who has worked in (or been to!) a bar will find nostalgia in this Cheers-meets-Clue book series championed by a kickass heroine that makes a mean Old Fashioned.
Best excerpt: The tasty cocktail recipe included at the end of each book!