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Athrú 2016 Conference on Gender Balance Takes Place in Galway this July

A group of chefs, restaurateurs and industry experts are gathering in Galway this month to examine gender roles in the culinary and hospitality sector. Taking place in 56 Central on Shop Street, Monday 18th and Tuesday 19th July, Athrú 2016: Empowering Women in the Culinary Arts in Ireland is the first conference of its kind to take place here and it will consist of talks, workshops and discussion panels with the goal of establishing a professional female voice in the industry.

Organised by Hilary O’Hagan – Brennan, Director of Food at 3fe, Jess Murphy from Kai Café + Restaurant, Lisa Regan PR and Gill Carroll in 56 Central among others, Athrú 2016 was born out of recent discussion in the press and across social media on the topic of gender balance in the industry.

Jess Murphy says the conference is necessary. “We need to build a stronger voice across the culinary arts. Across every section of society and within business, there is a lot of gender inequality and we just want to ensure that we are doing everything possible to get an equal playing field for both men and women working inside kitchens and within the hospitality sector”.

Key note speakers will address the conference each morning individually and as part of panel discussions while Hilary O’Hagan will lead working groups each afternoon to produce achievable actions.

In an effort to create a truly balanced conversation, Athrú 2016 is attracting speakers of both genders from many areas of the industry including Kevin Thornton, Michelin Star chef Danni Barry, Seamus Sheridan of Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, Eanna Hassett of Ashford Castle, Cait Noone from GMIT, Birgitta Curtin from the Burren Smokehouse and Gail Cotter of CIT.

Jess Murphy will open the conference on Monday morning before handing over to the first speaker, Colin Harmon of 3FE Coffee. Researcher with DIT Mary Farrell will then be discussing ‘Gender and The Professional Kitchen – The International Research‘.

On Tuesday, Gill Carroll of 56 Central will present ‘Strive for It – How to Strive for it when it comes to business and making sure your voice is heard‘ and Food historian at UCC Regina Sexton will give a talk on ‘Gendering the kitchen: A historical perspective on the cook and chef divide

Maria Canabal, President of the PARABERE FORUM will talk about ‘Driving gender balance in kitchens‘. Maria explains that providing a platform for women’s voices will improve the industry as a whole. “Currently, it’s obvious that women are under-represented in the food and hospitality industry. At the same time — and this might not be a coincidence — society has become increasingly distrustful of the food industry. Women’s voices need to be heard and their talents deployed, so that we can boost confidence in the food sector, and construct a vision of the future based on values of sustainability and equal opportunity. If society, and also food and wine industry, is to evolve towards greater sustainability, greater equality, stronger growth and increased social progress, women must be able to take their rightful place.”

Athrú 2016 also aims to create a collaborative database of working Irish female chefs that will be available for a range of events to provide the female voice and point of view. By tapping in to the female perspective of the industry, the organisers hope that it will lead to improvements in working conditions for everybody involved in the industry.

Trish Deseine says equality is good for everyone, “There is now overwhelming evidence that gender parity in the workplace is good for everyone’s health & happiness but most of all, it’s good for business. Yet women are still not fully sharing the power & limelight with men in the culinary arts when very obviously, they enjoy equal talent & capabilities. We’re sweeping aside damaging stereotypes & sexism in the arts, the police force, the army, medical & legal careers. It is now time to consider how to make that happen in our restaurant & hospitality industries too. Athrú will provide a much-needed innovative space for Irish women & men to come together & discuss how to leave inequality behind at last.”

On top of the line up of key note speakers and panellists, Athrú 2016 is getting a lot of support from prominent Irish chefs and local Galway businesses including Loam, Hooked on Henry Street, Dela and The Kitchen at the Museum.

Tickets for the two day event are €35 and are available at Breakfast is included for attendees on both days with lunch on Tuesday taking place in The Rowing Club. You can find all the information about Athrú 2016 and individual presentations on or you can visit their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

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