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Antía Fernández: “That a woman is in charge of a bakery continues to cause surprise”

Fernández, recently recognised as a junior baker at InterSICOP LIVEConnect, believes that women in this sector do not have the same opportunities as men because there has not yet been a generational changeover.

11 Jun 2021

At Panadería Pallares in Sarria (Lugo), founded in 1876, they craft breads, empanadas and confectionery working with local suppliers and basing their recipes on local produce to achieve flavours that evoke memories of childhood. Currently, Antía Fernández, the fifth generation of bakers in the family business, is in charge.

Fernández was recognised in March as a junior baker during the SICOP congress for women that took place within the framework ofInterSICOP LIVEConnect. A distinction that for this young professional means a lot “not only on a professional level, but also on a personal level, since I consider it recognises all the women in my family, especially my mother and my grandmother, who passed on the business and knowledge from generation to generation. I am very grateful to InterSICOP and to Pan de Calidad (Quality Bread) for this mention and for promoting spaces that encourage the exchange of ideas within the bakery union”.

1.- How has the role of women in baking evolved in the last ten years?

It has come a long way in recent years, since, although women have always been very much involved in bakeries, it is now that they are finally becoming more prominent in terms of visibility from the outside. Also, I think that more and more women are deciding to make a start in the profession and open their own businesses. 

We owe the advances that have taken place to all the bakers who have paved the way for us and have served as a benchmark for those of us who are starting out in the trade and for those that will come. To all of them I can only express my admiration and gratitude. 

2.- What challenges do women in the sector face?

One of the biggest challenges that exists in bakeries for both men and women is work-life balance and the ability to keep working hours as standardised as possible. Bakery managers have a responsibility to take advantage of available technology and advances in order to improve working conditions. In my opinion, this is not something which is solely beneficial on a personal level, but it is vital for the trade itself, since working conditions will affect the quality of the products we make.

3.- Do you think the same opportunities exist (salaries, positions of responsibility, recognition etc.) for women and men?

I don’t think we have the same opportunities because there has not yet been a generational changeover. There are people who continue to see the preparation work as a very physical task, so in many bakeries the task of serving the public continues to fall on women while that of making bread continues to be almost exclusively male. However, as time goes by, this gap is likely to get smaller and smaller, since the ability to make good bread is in no way gender-related, which is also true of the ability to sell it.

4.- Do you think that women are thin on the ground at bakery congresses and events? And in competitions? What do you think could be done to end female invisibility?

I believe that the percentage of women who appear in courses and congresses is not representative of the current reality in bakeries, where many more women are doing an excellent job. 

However, with each passing year we can see that more and more women are making their voices heard in these and other spaces and it is something that I am really keen to see, since I consider that women having a more visible role is essential in encouraging more young people to get started in the trade. 

5.- What percentage of women make up the workforce in Panadería Pallares? Are there specific positions for women or men?

Currently, 70% of the workers in our bakery are women. Of course, there are no differentiated jobs and it seems terrible to me that in the 21st century such differences still exist. 

6.- What tips do you have for female students who want to become bakers?

It is an exciting job that requires a lot of effort, commitment and dedication. I believe that training and learning are necessarily ongoing, since changes are constantly taking place. At the present time we have a number of resources to learn from which can be overwhelming, but the important thing is to know how to deal with the appropriate sources and not follow them blindly without adapting them to what we want to do, since each workshop and each bakery are different.

7.- Have you experienced any discriminatory situations in your profession because you are a woman?

In my particular case, at a professional level, I have not felt discriminated against. However, I think this is because my situation has been privileged, since I come from a family of bakers, which has made things easier for me. Even so, I think that the fact that a woman is in charge of a bakery continues to cause surprise when it should be something completely normal.