84 percent of Cooking Light Magazine's readers are women. So why does the magazine's November 2012 issue all but ignore female chefs? One reader was so irked by the lack of women in Cooking Light's pages that she emailed a senior editor to ask why the most recent issue, which has two sections devoted to highlighting chefs and influential people in food, featured next to no women. She wrote:
In 20 Food Heroes out of the 20 the only women are Julie Packard, Indra Nooyi and Lydia Tengalia (who is listed with her male partner Chris Collins). Three women out of 20 doesn't seem to accurately represent the women who are heroes in the food world.
In the 2012 Trailblazing Chef Awards out of the five people you chose, Kate Jacoby was the only woman and she was with her male partner Richard Landau.
I see that your editor and executive managing editor are men but the rest of your staff seems to have many women, so why are women so poorly represented in your magazine in an industry where I am quite sure there are many who have accomplished just as much as the men you feature and deserve equal recognition in your magazine?
Here's Senior Food Editor Timothy Q. Cebula's perfectly nice and perfectly clueless response:
I'm sorry to learn of your disappointment with our Food Heroes and Trailblazing Chef Awards. Our search process for both stories was comprehensive and lasted several months, and diversity was indeed among our considerations.
Please bear in mind that our chef awards are not given simply to five or six good cooks, but to people who excel in very specific categories (e.g., culinary preservation [which a woman chef, Maricel Presilla, won in 2011], small town chef, healthy chef, etc.), narrowing the list of potential candidates considerably. Consider also that fewer than 10 percent of executive-level chefs in America are women.
Still, we are always looking for talented women to feature in our magazine, and would of course love to hear your ideas. Please let me know your suggestions of who would be good candidates for chef awards in our given categories, or examples of "food hero" women that we might feature in similar stories in the future.
Cebula's line about the "comprehensive search" that lasted several months is reminiscent of Romney's "binders full of women" gaffe, and his suggestion that our tipster recommend some ladies is well-meaning but pretty pathetic. "Isn't that his job as the editor to showcase things that we don't already know about?" she asked us.
Yes: a senior food editor at a cooking magazine geared almost solely towards women has no excuse for not featuring — and knowing about! — more awesome female chefs. It's 2012. If Top Chef can do it every season, you can, too.