A Fine Line: Women’s Journey in the Male-Dominated Restaurant Industry

The number of women-owned restaurant businesses has grown significantly in the last few years. 

“Between 2007 and 2012, the number of women-owned restaurants jumped by 40 percent, and today 33 percent of American restaurants are majority owned by women,” said Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association a year ago. “Another 15 percent are equally co-owned by women and men.”

Although we are seeing more women helming restaurant kitchens and businesses, the industry is still dominated by the male gender. 

With that in mind, Filmmaker Joanna James decided to explore the challenges of women with successful careers in the culinary world with her film, “A Fine Line.” 

The film was intially about her mother, Valerie James.

“Initially, it was just going to be a story on my mother, but then I was shocked — being born into the restaurant industry — to not know that less than 7 percent of chef-restaurant owners are women. I just saw my mother doing it so well, and just loving it, that I just never would have thought that,” said James. “I think we do have to acknowledge what the women before us went through and what they were up against, and that we are standing on their shoulders. We need to talk about these things and lobby for changes that are reasonable and logical but will make a world of difference.” 

In the film, James exposes many common misconceptions about women working in restaurants.

“For instance, when a woman is doing well on the job but then decides she is going to have a child or start a family, she is no longer someone that they can rely on, someone who will excel in their field. Some restaurateurs are hesitant to even hire women at a later stage of life. And so this keeps sort of perpetuating. I think it’s something we’ve all been talking about for the past however many years, but it’s just come to the forefront recently with a lot of women of today’s generation trying to figure out how they can do this,” said James.

The documentary will be screened on April 3 at the “Farm to Fork to Film,” an event at Boston Public Market and superstar chefs Barbara Lynch, Jody Adams, and Tiffani Faison will also be doing a Q&A with the audience. Funds raised at the event will go towards the film’s production costs and its workplace equality and paid parental leave campaign. 

Foodable will be exploring this very topic at foodable.io. 

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