The Restaurant Industry Treats Women Like Shit

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Anyone who has ever worked in the restaurant industry can tell you that it can be incredibly unpleasant for everyone involved, but a new study has found that, in fact, it's an especially terrible place for women to work. To begin with, they make less money. Women servers who work full-time earn 68 percent of the salary their male counterparts make—and black women servers make only 60 percent. This disparity is explained largely by the fact that the highest-earning positions in the industry are dominated by men. For instance, only 19 percent of chefs are women.


Women tend to have the lower paying jobs, like server and host, in lower-cost restaurants. Sixty-eight percent of tipped workers are women, and tipped workers can be paid a lower minimum wage of just $2.13 an hour, as long as they make up the difference between that and the actual minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in tips (though many restaurants don't worry about whether their employees actually close the gap). According to the study, "[T]he lower minimum wage for tipped workers is essentially creating legalized gender inequity in the restaurant industry." And the consequences of this are real:

Servers—of whom 71 percent are female—are almost three times more likely to be paid below the poverty line than the general workforce and nearly twice as likely to need food stamps as the general population.

As if that wasn't depressing enough, the sexual harassment numbers for the restaurant industry are absurdly high.

Nearly 37 percent of all sexual harassment charges filed by women with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) come from the restaurant industry—more than 5 times the rate for the general female workforce.

Yikes. Add to that the fact the 90 percent of restaurant workers don't have employer-paid sick days or health benefits, don't have scheduling flexibility (which hits women caring for children the hardest)—not to mention the rude customers, the crazy hours, and the working all day on your feet that everyone in the industry has to contend with—and you have inexcusably miserable working conditions for women. It's obviously going to take a lot more than a few extra bucks down on the table to fix this problem, but in the meantime, remember to be extra nice to your server and tip generously.

Tipped Over the Edge – Gender Inequity in the Restaurant Industry [ROC-United]
Are Restaurants Sexist? Study Finds Women Lag in Service-Job Earnings [DailyBeast]


Image via RetroClipArt/Shutterstock.



Hi, I've been a server for about 4 years, and I have some thoughts on this.

1. Hosts/hostesses: Sure, a lot of females are shoved into the lower paying hostess gig, but I am constantly surprised how many people (mainly women) want to be hostesses, and not servers. Also, another interpretation is that hosting is a job which offers more opportunities for women than for men.

2. We get more tips than men, we just plain do. Sure, a lot of men abuse their position as customers to try to hit on me, but I don't really have a problem breaking free from them. (other waittresses do, I recognize.) Also, it is well known that the more upscale the restaurant, the "maler" the waitstaff. Not too many men work at Denny's, and not too many women are maitre'ds.

3. I wish the author had elaborated on the disparity of female chefs. I worked in a sushi restaurant for 2 years, and female sushi chefs are definitely discriminated against. I wonder what the deal is with other cuisines. Why are there fewer female chefs? Somehow I feel like the gap is waning as I seem to know a lot of young women pursuing culinary school. but that might just be the people I know.

4. In bars, women are significantly more able to forgo the barback apprenticeship and go straight to bartender training.

5. I disagree that the restaurant business is particularly terrible for women. This article is excessively dour.

6. The crazy hours. Sure, they can be crazy. Sometimes I work from 9pm to 3am. But you know what? That can potentially be appealing for a woman with childcare needs. As in, father works duirng the day, mother watches kid. Mother works at night, child stays with father. Sounds like hell? Well, a lot of people make it work. Also, its not uncommon for servers to work double shifts some days, so that they can have more off days. Working in a restaurant it is easier to trade days with other people so you can get stuff done. Try doing that in an office. One woman's "crazy hours" is another woman's "flexible schedule."