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Why Are Female Chefs Paid so Much Less Than Their Male Colleagues?

In terms of pay equity, kitchens are lagging way behind

Mike Coppola/Getty Images

It's already been established that restaurant kitchens don't make it easy on mothers. As it turns out, in terms of compensation, they're pretty hard on women in general. A new study from pay transparency web site Glassdoor finds female chefs make 28.3 percent less in base pay than their male colleagues. That's the second-highest "adjusted" percentage among the careers included in the study.

Gender pay gap

Glassdoor's adjusted numbers take out possible explanations for lower pay and only account for factors such as potential differences in how men and women negotiate, bias on the part of employers, or other "unexplained differences," notes the Washington Post. Glassdoor analyzed more than 505,000 salaries shared by full-time U.S. employees to come up with its findings. The research determined 33 percent of the gap in pay between men and women in the United States is linked to "possible workplace gender bias."

Not only are women making less in the kitchen, they seem to be far less likely to earn prestigious accolades for their work. Out of the 211 semifinalists for the James Beard Foundation's regional Best Chef awards in 2016, 30 were women — that's a paltry 14 percent. In the Midwest, all 22 semifinalists were men. The recognition disparity is nothing new. In 2013, Time magazine published a "Gods of Food" issue that was so male dominated, it became known as "Dudes of Food."

Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, who wrote the study for Glassdoor, says "occupation and industry sorting of men and women into jobs that pay differently" is the main cause for the gender pay gap across all professions in the United States. That doesn't necessarily explain the pay gap in kitchens because "chef" can be a vague term. But considering the fact that this year's JBFA Outstanding Pastry Chef semifinalists were nearly all women — 18 to two — perhaps it has some merit.

Glassdoor's research shows "employer policies that embrace salary transparency" can help eliminate hard-to-justify gender pay gaps, along with helping to achieve balance in male-female pay in the workplace.