The Importance of Women in the Food Industry | An Interview

Diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace is more important now than ever—and this includes the food, beverage, and barbecue industry. Women in the food industry have been no exception to the disparities in terms of representation. While accounting for 93% of food-purchasing decisions in the home, they still only represent less than 23% in the space of food industry C-suite positions.

This International Women's Day, we're shining the spotlight on the importance of women in the food industry with an exclusive look through the lens of one of the fearless females firing up the culinary scene with her expertise in grilling and BBQ. Join us with Andrea Alden, Napoleon's resident digital writer, food blogger, food photographer, and stylist who is the brainchild behind writing and cooking over 700 recipes for the global company.


The Glow Up: From Industry Rookie to BBQ Queen

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your background in the food industry?

Andrea: "Other than a brief summer stint as a prep and back-of-house person at a restaurant, I never really had any experience in “the industry” until working with Napoleon. I joined Napoleon over a decade ago as a web designer, and my boss just asked where the recipes on the website were. Then, he asked me to take care of it. From there, I grew the role I was given to include recipe development, food styling, and food photography with a complete focus on barbecued cuisine."

Q: Who is your biggest inspiration in the BBQ space?

Andrea: "Diva Q - Danielle Bennette and Ted Reader are my two barbecue heroes. When I was just starting out, these were the two that helped me to realize that anything can be cooked on a barbecue. Their creative outlook on cuisine itself is unique and inspiring as well. I have to admit; I may have fangirled a little when I cooked next to Ted at an event. He said he liked the food I had cooked that day, which certainly was encouraging."



A Predominantly Male-Driven Industry

When thinking about grilling it’s hard not to picture a hot fire, plumes of smoke, red meat, cold beers, and tailgating at football games—all of which over our history have become gendered towards men.

Q: But how was the barbecue industry shaped this way?

Andrea: “Barbecuing is still seen as a ‘manly’ pastime. This stems from the marketing of barbecues seen back in the 1950s shortly after WWII.” Alden explained, “It was a large part of the American Dream that father would be outside cooking in a manly fashion over flames.” She went on to say, “Since the 1950s, things haven’t really changed when it comes to marketing and barbecue life in general. Barbecues are marketed with a male figure presiding over the heat and flames, cooking happily for his hungry family. This is an aspirational vision that is expected and accepted across the industry and around the world.”

While there are more and more women becoming grill masters and pitmasters today, the stereotypes surrounding the industry still stand in the way of equal representation of women in leadership positions. When asked how companies can be doing better to create a more inclusive and diverse working environment, Alden said, “To create and promote a more diverse workforce focus could include women in every aspect of barbecue, from manufacturing to marketing. Providing equal opportunities to those women, by including them in marketing materials as the star and providing equal judging in competition, to name a few, will take great strides in creating a more inclusive and diverse environment in the food industry.“



Woman Trailblazing Their Way Through the Industry

Investing in women and giving them equal opportunities in the food industry offer plenty of benefits including enhanced training and safety standards in the kitchen, new and unique perspectives when creating dishes, and overall it boosts our economies. If businesses of all sizes are only considering and hiring men for food industry roles, they’re missing out on some of the best talent the world has to offer. Women are every bit as passionate, qualified, and ambitious and that can’t be ignored, even when it relates to predominantly male-dominated industries.

Even women who break through the glass ceiling in the food industry face a unique set of challenges. Alden said, “They must strive to overcome these hurdles on their own. Those that find their way to a coveted higher position or authority make it their mission to help other ladies find their place without the same hurdles and roadblocks.” When asked what her advice is for women looking to pursue a career in the industry she said, “Whatever your niche, there is nothing you can’t accomplish. If you can, find a mentor who will support your growth to ensure success. And an excellent support group of friends and family will make sure you have the tools and support to succeed.”




How Napoleon is Uplifting Women in the Food Industry

While the food and beverage industry is still predominantly male-driven, change is on its way. In fact, surveys show that 90% of companies have asserted a commitment to gender diversity, but it's clear that we still have a long way to go before stereotypes are shattered at a grassroots level so that real change can happen. As experts in the barbecue industry, there is a duty to lead from within. When asked about her experience, Alden said, “Napoleon is taking strides to combat this stigma not only by my employment as their barbecue food expert but by including women in their marketing materials and ensuring that there are female ambassadors who love using our barbecues just as much as I do. I feel respected and represented here, and I am very grateful to have the opportunities that I have enjoyed.”


Celebrate Women with Andrea Alden's Top BBQ Recipes

International Women's Day is about celebrating the existence, hard work, and victories of females across the globe. On this day, fire up your grills and prepare some of Andrea Alden’s top recipes curated for Napoleon; and don’t forget to make a toast to all the incredible women in your life before you dig in!


Join the Napoleon Team

Napoleon is a global company committed to supporting the growth of women in the workplace. To learn more about its company values and available job opportunities, visit the careers page.