Amy North, multimedia content editor at British Baker discusses recent criticism of gender imbalance in the baking industry and what can be done to address it.

The representation of women in the baking industry – or rather the lack of it – has become a topic of debate on social media and the wider world in recent weeks.

There are many talented women in bakery taking on roles including production, engineering, marketing, education and more – and yet they are can be overlooked when it comes to industry events and panels.

The all-male line-up at the Real Bread Campaign’s 10th anniversary event Batch: London was among those criticised for lack of diversity, leading to questions about the campaign’s choice of ambassadors generally.

The Real Bread Campaign was quick to react, setting out plans to address concerns – stating it was seeking to add speakers to the event to achieve a better balance and undertaking a review of the ambassador role and criteria for selecting representatives.

Two of the men previously confirmed as speakers also took to social media to voice their support, offering up their spots on the panel to help achieve this.

Criticisms were made of the finalists for Baker of the Year at this year’s Baking Industry Awards – a worthy, but all-male trio. Notably, only one entry for the category was from a woman.

Ann Wells, group marketing director at Baker of the Year sponsor Brook Food, says all entrants are judged on merit equally, and feels it is a shame there aren’t more women entering this category: “There is some amazing talent out there, and we’ve worked with female bakers in recent years that would make very worthy applicants. I hope in time they’ll feel encouraged to enter.”

In contrast, for the past three years, all finalists for The Rising Star Award have been women, demonstrating that the talent, drive and ambition are out there.

It has been suggested women simply aren’t putting themselves forwards as ambassadors and potential award-winners. Others believe bakery is not purposefully imbalanced or prejudiced, but that women are under-represented generally in certain fields such as artisan bread production.

But telling audiences that events are ‘open to all’ isn’t enough to drive change.

Change isn’t going to happen overnight but recognising imbalance and taking action to address this can – and will – make a difference.