As the gender pay gap hits the headlines and organisations such as People 1st highlight the inequality of the sexes in hospitality, it was heartening to attend the FSM Awards this week, where each course was presided over by a female Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Award winner. Not only that, in an industry that is often seen as male dominated, there were a dozen female nominees, the same number as their male peers and two categories – the Education Award and the B&I Award – where all the three nominees were female. When it came to announcing the winners ‘girl power’ reigned in an impressive 5 categories, including the Lifetime Achievement Award which was presented to Sue Parfett and Kate Martin of Brookwood Partnership, for their amazing work in the education sector over the past twenty one years since they founded the business back in 1996.

Sat on a table with a strong representation of female business women across both marketing and recruitment (traditionally sectors where women tend to excel), and as a female MD working with a female CEO and a rather female biased office, it was great to see such inspiring female role models out there in the industry winning awards and doing great work in the foodservice management/contract catering sector. MCA currently value the sector at £9.3bn (more information on contract catering can be found here) and it is fair to say that its the one sector which caters from cradle to grave, with contract catering in hospitals, schools, workplaces, leisure, care homes and even in some cases hotels.

Some of the more cynical amongst you may fear positive discrimination at play, but with two completely independent judging panels it’s simply not the case. The fact of the matter is that there remains an element of truth to the saying ‘if you want a job done well, get a busy woman to do it’. That’s not to disregard the great work of the male nominees and winners, who undoubtedly have excelled in their field (and of course we highly value our male colleagues here at Jellybean and not just when we need the water cooler changed). However, when People 1st are quoted as saying that “Today there are circa 24,000 fewer women in management positions in the hospitality sector than there were in 2010.” – it seems fair to celebrate those who are award winners.

The night was, as ever, a great celebration of the industry enhanced by Jamie Robin’s hosting and Mark Durden-Smith’s razor wit and impressive homework. The food was fabulous and a real testimony to the talents of the young chefs behind the menu who hailed from The Clove Club, The Ritz and the Shard – none too shabby! Well done to Steve Munkley and the team at the Kensington Royal Garden Hotel and of course the events team at H20 on another great night, which however unintentionally managed to showcase both the sector and the strength of its female talent. To see coverage of the night search #FSMAwards on Twitter and for the full list of winners visit the FSM website.