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03 February 2020

“There is no female invisibility in the bakery sector. The problem is getting your name known, there is a lack of resources”

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The renowned baker advises young women who want to dedicate themselves to the trade to train and help each other.

Anna Bellsolà, owner of Baluard

Daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter of bakers, Anna Bellsolà is the protagonist in one of the success stories from the InterSICOP Forum 2019. She opened Baluard, her own artisan bread factory in the Barceloneta neighbourhood of Barcelona, in 2007. And that's when the awards began. Professional of the Year from the Catalan Academy of Gastronomy in 2010, Young Bakery Entrepreneur in 2011, Innovation Award from FIDEM (International Female Entrepreneur Foundation) in 2012 and the Llesca d'Or award in 2017, among others. 13 years later, she is a regular at gastronomic congresses and now has three successful establishments in the city of Barcelona.

Bellsolà is optimistic regarding the progress made in the role women play in this sector. She believes there is now equality between men and women, although she acknowledges that women still face the challenge of having to prove themselves every single day.

1.- How has the role of women in bakery evolved in the last 20 years?

In recent years the role of women in the world of bakery has changed for the better. The classic model of women out front in the shop and men out back with the ovens can still be seen, but the percentage of women by the ovens is increasing.

Thanks to the general changes in the sector, women have been able to decide for themselves to take on the role that has most interested them.

As a result of the improved training currently on offer, many women have been able to gain knowledge of and master the trade from within, with excellent methods, technique and commitment.

2.- What are the challenges facing women in the sector?​

Women face the challenge of having to prove themselves every single day. Even today, seeing a woman enter the kitchen in a bakery causes hesitation on the part of some men and this is very unfair. But I am convinced that, over time, we will not have to prove ourselves quite so much, because those highly defined roles will have been blurred.

3.- Do you think women have the same opportunities (salaries, positions of responsibility, recognition, etc.) as men in this sector? Is there a solution?

I think that there is equality in this sector, and when a woman manages to make it, she is widely recognised and given a lot of respect. The problem is getting your name known, there is a lack of resources.

4.- Do you think there is a scant presence of women at bakery congresses and events? What actions could be taken to combat the invisibility of women?

There is no invisibility of women, basically what happens is that in this trade, as can also happen in the hospitality industry, only a few women manage to become well-known. When choosing to become a mother, motherhood, parenting and the subsequent training of returning parents are, in my opinion, the greatest and most important of the challenges, and balancing it with this profession is still difficult. I would change many things, including extending maternity leave to 12 months.

5.- At Baluard, do you offer solutions to facilitate the work-life balance?

Artisan bakery is a difficult sector for both women and men, it demands sacrifice and commitment and you have to like it a lot, whether you are a man or a woman.

Perhaps because of the fact of being a woman and mother of two children, when we hire a woman who is a mother with children we always offer schedules that are consistent with that situation; this is something we always prioritise. There has to be empathy between women, it is very important, we have to team up.

6.- What percentage of women are there in the Baluard workforce? Are there specific positions for women or men among your bakers?​

All the positions are open to men and women. Whether in the sales area, in the production of bread or in the pastry area. Although our total average in 2019 is 33% men and 67% women, it is true that in the bakery production section the percentage is 10-15% women, and in the pastry section it would be 50% women.

7.- What recommendations would you give to young women who want to devote themselves to bakery?​

That they should get training, this is the most important thing, and that they should travel outside the country often to see what is really going on out there. It is very inspiring. I would also suggest that they team up with each other. Helping each other is very practical and enriching.

8.- Have you experienced any situations of discrimination in your profession because you were a woman?

No, never, despite being under 1.60 metres tall and being a woman, I have always felt comfortable among bakers even when most of them were men. I experienced some resistance within my own family. Those were different times and they never believed that the daughter of the family was going to be the one to carry on the family business

9.- What has been your formula for success?

I am one of those who think that nobody achieves success without perseverance, sacrifice and passion.

My father gave me a lot of good advice throughout his life and one piece was that you should never throw in the towel and if you do something, try to do it very well.