As we celebrate International Women’s Day, Kelly Barnes says there are no gender barriers at Krispies with everyone treated as an equal
To me, working in the fish and chip trade is so normal that gender and equality issues are something I never really think about. With regards to career choice, I encourage anyone who comes to work for me to know that fish and chips is a great path to take. If we’re all honest, it’s normally seen as a stop-gap job for people, they either need money whilst studying or a job to help make ends meet, but I think, now more than ever, it’s becoming recognised as a stable and consistent industry and has room for a career path with growth.
My experience of fish and chips is an interesting one. I have always worked on the counter in our business, even when I worked in another shop. I think that’s where people expect women to be in the fish and chip trade. However, I have always made a point of learning every aspect from lifting 25kg sacks of spuds, to the rumbling, to frying busy nights and serving. It’s good to show people that we are equal in the trade.
I remember distinctly one time when a rep came in and asked to speak to Tim, I’m going back probably 10 years ago. They wanted to talk fish prices and what deal they could give us on a case. I told him I dealt with the fish prices and anything decided we would discuss together. He still then asked to speak with Tim. He soon left without a deal and very shortly lost our business! He didn’t want to deal with a woman when it came to fish prices and that was very clear.
On a more positive note, I’d like to think that the women who work for me see me as a role model. I encourage them to challenge themselves in the workplace. I didn’t have any GCSEs and when my results came through I panicked and wondered where I’d end up. Whether it’s stacking shelves, serving fish and chips or working on Wall Street, as long as you love what you do and treat the person next to you as an equal, life can take you to places you didn’t know existed.
There are so many great women in our industry, too many to give a shout out to them all. But one lady who I absolutely adore is Lesley Graves of Burton Road Chippy in Lincoln. She is strong and humble and calls a spade a spade. She’s encouraging and a great listener.
I also have a great friendship with Lesley Miller of Miller’s in Haxby, York. She is another strong woman and you can see her pride in what the Millers guys have done with the business but, as her husband David said recently, she’s the unsung hero, and I couldn’t agree.
As I said earlier, I believe when we first started people did expect to see the man behind the fryer and the woman serving. In Krispies now, we have an equal amount of males and females doing each job. When I employ people I look for personality over skill: you can train skill but you can’t train personality. Gender never comes into the equation. Everyone has a job role and they are trained to do that job. For us, it’s that simple. Male, female, younger or older. Everyone is equal.