Brígida Hermida, owner of Xearte Brigitte
An agronomist and ice cream professional by training, Brígida Hermida is a member of the 20Bajocero Collective and the winner of Premio Arte Heladero (Ice Cream Art Award) for the tenth graduating class of the Expert Artisanal Ice Cream Preparation Course for her remarkable work on the influence and origin of cow's milk in the quality of artisanal ice cream.
Hermida, who spoke at InterSICOP 2019 about how to run an ice cream shop as popular as Xearte Brigitte in a rainy area like Santiago de Compostela, says that women and men have the same opportunities in terms of positions, salaries and recognition in this sector.
1.- How has the ice cream industry’s role evolved over the last 20 years?
I've only been in the ice cream business for about eight years, but I have seen how it has evolved in this time. When I started, there were hardly any ice cream shops in Galicia; in the last ten years we have almost tripled the number. It is true that there are much fewer natural, artisanal ice cream shops, but there is a lot on offer. In addition, ice cream has become very fashionable, and more and more people have it as a dessert.
2.- What are the challenges facing women in the sector?
Today, women face the same challenges in any sector. It is true that there are fewer women in the ice cream business, perhaps because it involves many hours of work, little movement, and requires physical effort. Until now it had always been a man’s world, passing from father to son, but it is true that younger women from ice cream families are becoming much more involved in the business. In my case, I had nothing to do with the sector.
3.- Do you think there is a scant presence of women at ice cream congresses and events?
I don't think so. When we go to fairs, congresses, demonstrations, presentations... the presence of women is paltry, but I think it is because there are few heading up ice cream shops. Nonetheless, it is true that more and more women are involved in the preparation and procurement processes and in the business in general. There has been a change in recent years.
4.- What actions could be taken to combat women's invisibility?
We should get ourselves seen more, and if it really is women running the ice cream business, women should be its visible face.
In general, a major challenge faced by artisanal ice cream is to get the profession recognised. It is not valued like other professions, and creates even more invisibility for women.
5.- 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 they have the same opportunities in terms of positions, recognition, salary. I don't see any difference. That is what collective bargaining agreements are for, and they don't distinguish by gender.
6.- Is it difficult for a woman to reconcile her personal and professional life in a business like ice cream?
Just as difficult as in any other profession. There are the same complications and there is the same level of reconciliation as in any sector. It's all about organisation, priorities.
7.- What recommendations would you give to young women who want to go into the ice cream business?
If they really love ice cream, they must fight to get that recognition and to achieve their dream. It is neither more of a men’s nor more of a women’s business. It requires effort, but like any other business.
8.- Have you experienced any situations of discrimination in your profession because you are a woman?
Not that I noticed, no. I'm very proud to be surrounded by exceptional colleagues who have supported me. Whenever I have needed their help, they have offered it to me, and I have never felt discriminated against or noticed any lack of respect due to being a woman in the profession.
9.- What has been your recipe for success?
I don`t know if I have been successful, but I have persevered, and my business has been growing over the years, and that is based primarily on the quality of the product and the trust the customer has in me. Intolerances, allergies, new flavours, opening markets... part of Xearte Brigitte's popularity is down to its ability to truly adapt to customer demand, while never skimping on the quality of the raw material, seasonal, regional ingredients, and emphasising the benefits of our products.