Califa is spelled with a woman's name
- At the Califa, 70% of the staff are women.
For International Women's Day we want to share the impressions of some of the female voices behind the group.
International Women's Day is celebrated on 8 March. It is a good time to reflect on the progress made, to celebrate courage, struggle and to talk about what remains to be done.
In the Califa, women have been a key factor since the beginning. "When I started working here, around 2008, there were only women," says Encarni Benitez, director of administration. "The only men who were there were James (James Stuart, co-founder of the Califa) and Ramon (Ramon Fenoll, HR & Finance director) when I joined the staff," adds May Delgado, one of the receptionists at La Casa del Califa. Now of the 87 people working for the group, there are 61 women, approximately 70%.
James Stuart, CEO and co-founder of the Califa group: "The Califa group is entirely a meritocracy - all the women who work with us are here because of their ability. If there are more women than men on our staff, it's because they work harder, are more conscientious and use their heads more".
In the image above we can see the Califa's directors. From left to right: Ana Durán (manager of Plaza 18, Palmeras del Califa and Hotel Madreselva), Encarni Benítez (administration director), Khadija Essaadi (manager and executive chef of the Jardín del Califa), Mercedes García (sales manager of the Califa Group hotels and manager of Califa Casas) and Regli Álvarez (director and co-founder of the Califa Group).
Regli Álvarez, director and co-founder of the Califa group: "Women are much more sensitive, more intuitive and have more empathy, all qualities that are very necessary when working in a hotel or restaurant. All our workers are the ones who give the Califa the character and charm we have. Each and every one of them makes this a special place".
The angels of Corredera 55
Avis, a 44-year-old Colombian, has been a kitchen assistant for four years at Corredera 55, one of the Califa group's restaurants. It's been almost 20 years since she emigrated to Spain from her hometown of Montería. "In Colombia there is more inequality. Here there are more possibilities for women, they are more protected," she says. But "there's still a lot to do," she says.
Ellie Cormié, a Scot and owner of this establishment, part of the Califa Group, which celebrates its fifth spring this year says, "In Andalucía women have the burden of children, husbands, boyfriends or partners, the house and the parents. That doesn't happen in other countries; Spain is more traditional. The women are stronger." For Ellie "the kitchen is the soul of a business". The souls in her kitchen are called Mª del Mar, boss and "mother" of the group; Gema, her right hand; Avis, Loli and Rocío. Five women in the kitchen. "A woman's kitchen is not easy but we have a lot of complicity, sometimes we don't even need to talk, we understand each other perfectly. We are strong women," says Avis. Five heroines of the kitchen with hard and complicated stories behind them but who have a strong message to send on the occasion of the upcoming event.
"Union makes strength", says Mª del Mar. According to Avis, "we have to be less conformist, go out and have more fun".
Ellie with some of her staff
Ellie Cormié, manager of Corredera 55: "Women are faster, more efficient and better at managing crisis and stress situations". It's a successful formula by all accounts as it's the only restaurant in the area that has so many women in the kitchen other than the Jardín del Califa. "I would like us to set an example for other establishments," she says proudly.
Something that surprises diners, too. "90% of the days they want to come in and congratulate us in the kitchen or ask the 'cook' to come out. When they find out that we're all cooks they are often surprised", confesses Mª del Mar, "the queen of the kitchen", as Ellie calls her. Her conclusion is that in Spain there is still a lack of female presence in the upper echelons of the kitchen.
In the world of wine the situation is no better. "There are fewer women sommeliers in this country than in other parts of the world", Ellie explains, analysing the role of women in various sectors of the hotel and catering industry.
"In the hospitality industry the female touch is very important and in general we have noticed that both customers and clients are more relaxed among women," concludes James.
From here we want to thank all the women who are part of the great family of the Califa Group for their efforts: Regli, Ellie, Encarni, Mercedes, Jadhi, Ana, Toñi, May, Virginia, Nuria, Natalia, Gloria, Maribel, Beli, Mª José, Chiki, Leo, Ana Mari, Anita, Charo, Candi, Paqui, Khinsa, Amina, Aisha, Drissia, Marina, Ana S., Claudia, Oliva G., Mounia, Esther, Nawel, Mª del Mar, Manoli R., Zara L., Nuria G., Pepi V., Oliva, Mª José, Rocío, Elena S., Natalia M., María F., Olivita, Natalia, Elisa, Ana M., Mª Carmen, Ángeles, Susana, Paqui, Ana, Lorena, Miriam, Gema, Avis, María del Mar, Rocío, Isabel y Desi.