The foodservice operator's Women in Food programme, launched in London yesterday, is designed to increase the number of women working in the company's kitchens by 15 per cent over the next four years.
Currently Compass Group UK & Ireland employs 4,393 chefs across its business, 1537 of which are female (35 per cent).
As highlighted by data released by the Office for National Statistics in February, less than a fifth of chefs are female with two fifths of them considering quitting the industry leading to calls to reverse the trend and make commercial kitchens more accessible and appealing to women.
Compass Group UK & Ireland managing director Dennis Hogan, said although the company already exceeded the industry average, it was determined to work harder to redress the balance.
"We are delighted to have launched a scheme that is actively looking to support female chefs with the right opportunities, development and training," he said.
“We have worked hard to establish the reasons that are discouraging woman from becoming chefs or continuing their chef career and hope by recognising and understanding the issues, that through the development of the Women in Food programme, we are now able to break down these barriers.”
Learning and development
Compass, which provides services in a range of sectors, from schools and hospitals to workplaces and sports hospitality, said contract catering offered many opportunities for those looking to balance work and family life.
The programme, which will be overseen by a board made up of members of key Compass personnel, will see a greater investment in learning and development for female chefs that currently work for the company and those who will be recruited. The company said it would also review work practices to identify areas where shift work and flexible working hours could be introduced.
Restaurateur Prue Leith, who with chef and food writer Sabrina Ghayour and Restaurant Associates consultant chef Emily Roux, were at yesterday's launch, said: "The training of more female chefs is vital if we are to reach gender equality in the catering industry.
"It is great to see that Compass Group has launched a programme to tackle the issue by making a commitment to increasing the number of female chefs they recruit and also provide the right supportive environment so they can flourish.”