Chef Jennifer Zavala, a 26-year food industry vet, has spent the past 15 of those years here in Philadelphia. From catering for musicians, weddings, and all manner of special events, to moving on up from selling tamales in a van to her newly opened shop, Juana Tamale, in South Philadelphia, to her countless hours working with charitable organizations and community groups, Chef Jennifer has cleared her own path here in the city.
Who is a woman that inspires you?
Women that inspire me are women with no support, no help, no resources, no acceptance, no formal education, no name in the paper, no kind of acknowledgement for their hard work with every excuse to quit. And yet they don’t. They keep going and keep trying.
What do you think needs to be done to level the playing field for women in the workplace?I think to level the playing field for women in the workplace there needs to be equal pay and acknowledgement and respect for the work women do in their fields and industries. Creating inclusive work environments and diversity is key.
What are some challenges you have faced as a woman in the workplace/in general?
The challenges I have faced before are the challenges I still face today. Most men don’t believe that I, an uneducated, face tattooed Mexican Mom could do and own the things they thought I couldn’t. The way I’m seen and talked to at times can make it very challenging.
What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
Keep going, through every tear, through every excuse, through every challenge, keep going. Showing up is the hardest part so no matter what, show up. And if you don’t see anyone like you doing it, that means you’re the one to be seen. Keep going!