Georgina Crespo The fourth generation of the hundred-year-old, award-winning and emblematic Fleca Balmes (Barcelona), where its breads are made without haste, with long fermentation periods and their own natural sourdough.
Crespo argues that physical limitations and family obligations have always been the two barriers that slowed the progression of women in baking. Fortunately, she believes that these obstacles are being overcome thanks to technology and greater equality between the sexes in the area of family responsibilities, although there is still some way to go.
1.- How has the role of women in baking evolved in the last ten years?
Bakery in Spain has traditionally been a profession carried out by men, since it was a highly physical job that was undertaken at hours that were hardly compatible with family life, and the role of women was relegated to serving in the shop. In the last ten years, the role of women in the world of work has clearly evolved, and the steps that are being taken in favour of gender equality have reached all areas, including bakery. Currently there are more and more women like me working in the workshop, and even being owners of the business, and I hope this trend will continue.
2.- What challenges do women in the sector face?
Physical limitations and family obligations have always been the two main barriers that have slowed the progression of women in the baking.
In this regard, technology has evolved in such a way that the work being done does not require as much physicality, and nowadays work in a bakery workshop can be done perfectly well by any woman.
In terms of family obligations, in the 21st century the role of women is no longer relegated as much to the family, and the responsibilities that family entails are more balanced on both sides. In addition, today’s techniques of kneading, cold processing and long fermentations do not restrict schedules as much they did historically.
The challenge faced by women in this sector is a greater general recognition that it is a job that can be performed by both men and women. It shouldn’t be surprising any more to see a woman as a baker.
3.- Do you think there are the same opportunities (salaries, positions of responsibility, recognition etc.) for women and men?
I believe that today salary is associated with the position and responsibility (at least in my case) and recognition in the bakery world is independent of gender.
However, it is undeniable that most applicants for workshop jobs are men, while for jobs in the shop they are women. That is a cultural tendency that I hope we will evolve away from.
4. Do you think that women are thin on the ground at bakery congresses and events? What do you think could be done to end female invisibility?
In general, congresses and events are attended by the owners of the bakeries or those in charge of the workshop. Until the proportion becomes more equal in this area, it will be difficult to have the same presence of women as of men.
Although this world has changed a lot in recent years, it will still take years for the transition to be complete.
I believe that today’s society is prepared to see a female baker, we just need to encourage women to enter this world, and one way would be to eliminate the stereotype of a male baker who spends all night in the bakery lifting sacks of flour.
5.- What percentage of women are there in the Fleca Balmes workforce? Are there specific positions for women or men among your bakers?
Our staff is approximately 50% female. But this is misleading, since most of them work in the shop selling to the public. Fleca Balmes is a business that is more than a century old and we have workers in the bakery workshop who have been with us for more than 30 years. I hope that in the future this tendency will change as we renew our staff.
6.- What tips do you have for female students who want to be bakers?
If you understand this trade as an art and not as a job, if you approach it with passion rather than a sense of obligation, it will allow you to develop your creative capacity and feel pride every time you achieve your results. It can give you a much happier life than a job in an office.
7.- Have you experienced any discriminatory situations in your profession because you are a woman?
In my case, I have not experienced any discrimination; on the contrary, I receive a lot of admiration and respect for being a woman and that is because, deep down, there is still a long way to go.