Work Life Balance for Women in Hospitality

One of our members, Ishwariya Rajamohan, is the founder of Love Letters to Chefs, she delivers workshops and 1-1 coaching for hospitality leaders and teams looking to enjoy more balanced lives and sustainable careers. A former pastry chef, she is now a certified coach and mental health first-aider and shares her thoughts on how women in hospitality can balance their personal and professional lives. 

Our generation of women has had more career and business opportunities than ever before. At the same time, the challenges that we have had to navigate have not abated in line with our progression in the industry. To add to the pressure, in daring to ‘want it all’ in our personal and professional lives, we face intense scrutiny in how successfully we balance the many roles we perform. This raises the question of just how much women in hospitality have to deal with on a daily basis, above and beyond their male peers doing the same work.

Work life balance normally feels out of reach to just about everyone who endures our long hours. But add to that dynamic the need for a woman to constantly prove herself, to always be vigilant about her safety, to put up with being treated as someone “less than”, and to not get due recognition for her efforts – you have the challenge of someone who is constantly fighting for her place in the world. What quality of rest can she be expected to enjoy as a result?

Photo by Anna Tarazevich

Photo by Anna Tarazevich

In addition, what is presented to her as an ‘equal opportunity’ seldom takes into account the price she pays to be part of the system: simultaneously juggling family responsibilities, or sometimes even sacrificing her personal ambitions, just to keep her place on a team. And yet through all this, there are women all over the world, showing up day-in, day-out to give their all to the industry and work they love. Even when they are made to feel like they do not belong there.

But nothing stops us from celebrating what we bring to the table as women in hospitality. Or even owning where we might have the upper hand. My firm belief is that we have access to certain qualities that support our work life balance, and my intention is to help you see and appreciate that.

In my work as a coach I focus largely on energetics and helping my clients manage their energy better than they currently do. The principle that I want to share with you is that when it comes to energy, gender has no relevance: we all hold masculine and feminine energy within ourselves. We might lead with one type most of the time, but both are equally vital for us to enjoy happy, fulfilled lives and careers. To put it simply, you engage your masculine energy when doing something or thinking, while the feminine aspect is more passive and receptive. We can choose to engage the latter as and when required, so we can more easily access that elusive feeling of being balanced.

Photo by Jesus Terres

Photo by Jesus Terres

How? For example, the feminine is non-hierarchical. Which makes women tend to work more collaboratively. Although this might appear to be a weakness in an industry where you are expected to do it all yourself, one of your biggest strengths is your ability to reach out for support or advice when needed. You do not have to do it all alone.

Even when it comes to self care, feminine energy is invaluable, because it can be expressed through nurturing, amongst other qualities. In fact, that is at the core of what we do in our work: feeding people, ensuring their comfort, listening to their needs, etc. But somewhere along the way the brigade culture added machismo to the mix. In any case, you hold an instinctual knowledge of how to look after not just others, but also yourself.

I do not mean to imply that this is easy: I know of female chefs who struggle with relaxing on their days off or feel guilty about making time for themselves. But this becomes easier the more closely you can tune in to what you need in each moment: whether that might be some quiet time for yourself, a warming meal, a lazy morning indoors, a phone call with a friend or just a hug from a loved one. And it goes without saying that you should allow yourself to experience and enjoy those things, without guilt or judgement. Feminine energy is about vulnerability too, so having a need to rest is completely valid and never about a lack of strength.

This is only a small illustration of how your feminine energy can support you in grounding yourself while working in a challenging profession. No doubt, we need more tangible measures from the industry in order to enjoy the quality of life that we desire. But never discount the small things you can do in service of your wellbeing. Ultimately, work life balance in hospitality is never just about the rotas, but more about how balanced you can feel, moment-to-moment. And if you can tap into it, your feminine energy gives you the tools to access that balance.

Ishwariya Rajamohan has launched a coaching scholarship to support female leaders in hospitality over the coming months.  There are three discounted places on offer – find out more here.

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