Bakers Journal

Editor’s Letter: May 2016

April 28, 2016
By Laura Aiken

Women in baking

May 8 is Mother’s Day, which seems an apt time to reflect on the role of motherhood in the baking industry. Let’s face it (and state the obvious to get it out of the way): working motherhood is a juggling act in any career. As with all fields, a life in the baking industry can have its particular challenges. There can be long hours, shift work, low salary, and lack of health benefits.

PayScale Human Capital, a service that uses crowdsourcing and technology to compile its database of over 50 million individual salary profiles, puts the average annual salary for a Canadian baker at $28,000 and 62 per cent of their respondents are female. The latter trend is set to continue, if not greatly expand. Women make up a huge proportion of enrollment in the baking programs I surveyed across Canada. Clark Adams, baking and pastry arts instructor at SAIT Polytechnic, shared via email: “We have 64 first year students enrolled right now, four are male, the rest female. That’s been about ‘average’ for us the past four to five years.” Alan Dumonceaux, chair of NAIT’s baking and pastry arts program, reported: “We typically have about 85 per cent women in our full-time program. By statistics for apprenticeship in Alberta, baking has the second highest number of female trainees next to hairstylist.” Laura Bryan, instructor at George Brown College’s baking and pastry arts program, estimates their female enrollment to be about 85 per cent.

Financially, being a baker puts one near smack in the middle of the Canadian income spread. In 2015, Maclean’s, via special report by MoneySense , reported that the average household income for families of two or more was $66,397, and for a singleton it was about $30,000 (MoneySense estimates for 2013 based on Statistics Canada data).

Entrepreneurship can provide flexibility. It is easier to bring family life into the business, but also more difficult to separate the business when so inclined. Whether employees or employers, all mothers in baking have in common the need for support. Some of that support comes from the personal side and some from work. One has to wonder how the changing mobility of society will affect the up and comers. People move for their jobs, and it isn’t necessarily the norm these days that extended family stay within reach. This may mean it is all the more important for industry to be prepared to support its working mothers with flexibility and understanding as the culture of personal support changes.

With so much of the future bakery workforce positioned to be women, it is imperative that they are educated on what the grand scope of future opportunities may be. What will their career look like in R&D? Or commercial baking? What if they want to work with a supplier instead of working for a bakery? How can they prepare themselves for successful bakery ownership?

The bakery industry can’t prepare a woman for motherhood, but it can think about how to best help its women members as they enter those prime childbearing years. If there were easy answers, they would have been found. There are only individual answers, and individual choices, for women, their employers and their employees. Which means Mother’s Day is a good time to ask yourself: How am I best helping my working mothers today, and tomorrow?

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