I'm male, but I'm 40 and because of early classes and friends interested in the subject, I have tried to be somewhat conscious of gender issues for almost 20 years, in various workplaces including my own company, and on two continents.
We have almost a 60-40% ratio of men to women on our campus, believe it or not.
The only real tangible difference that I'm aware of is a tendency toward slightly less muscle in the forearms which isn't to say a few men walking around are short of forearm muscle too (myself included). I have a tendency to frequently offer to help women in our school with any form of lifting that involves that lack of arm strength but only when it looks like help might be needed and even then I'm sure I'm often recieved as being a little chauvanistic in the process.
But to be honest, women seem very comfortable around a gentleman in the kitchen, as do gentlemen feel comfortable around women, but I do notice little boys frequently commenting on things like the "squeemishness", and cattiness of the girls, and likewise the girls often comment on the crassness of the boys. Sound familiar?
A trend I will also acknowledge witnessing in at least two different kitchen classes is when women collide and can't get along. She's out to get her and her is out to get she and there's really nothing any of us innocent bystanders can do but get out of the way and hope not to get run over by that Mack truck.
But there are male equivalents to this, where two A types refuse to acknowledge one or the other as a team leader or whatever. The difference seems to be that the males get on with the work, while bickering and never resolving the conflict - where the women will get on the work while stabbing each other in the back later and indirectly, eg telling Chef that the other woman isn't doing her job correctly.
In our school the strongest students are well-represented by both sexes. The stronger women tend to be quiet and not outwardly sociable (although very sociable when approached by anyone). The stronger men tend to be more focused on the team and so seem more interactive with the group, but can also be less task focused. And these are only my interpretations of tendencies of course, not absolutes. You'd almost guess the opposite would be true following gender stereo-types but it doesn't seem so with the sample i can observe.
The few 'alpha female' personalities we have (to use/make-up terms i don't really understand) are very good at adapting and evolving quickly to meet any new challenge - something i'm very impressed with. They don't let their ego get in the way as much as alpha-type males do, but they can rock just as hard in most forms.
There are a lot of females intending to go pastry, but many of those have changed their major to savory after a few classes, and there are just as many men looking to go pastry as there are women. I think a majority of students on our campus are actually intending to complete both pasty and savory certificates since there isn't a huge amount of difference in credits between them (another few cooking classes).
As for not using a knife most of our best knife work is coming from well thought out presentations created by females. I guess we're lucky not to have any of the females in our school who can't use a knife, I've had to show more men how to use their knife for a given operation than I've had to with the women. And the women have shown me more tricks with a knife than men have.
The squeemishness isn't limited to the women - I can't tell you how many "men" are too scared to shove their hand in a dirty drain or can't get the hang of using a mop properly because they don't know how to hold one for more than about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the women are generally always happy to prove their ability to deal with the ugly in the kitchen. I'm notorious in the school for doing the dishes because too frequently everyone wants to sit around and deliberate over who needs to do them this time - and the only other people I see volunteering for the nasty work (just to get it over with asap like me) are women. the little girls, in fact. But they line up every week and they don't mess around. I'm not saying men don't, but it seems much more rare for men than women to see them actually doing the work (as opposed to directing the work which all the alpha types have plenty of experience doing =p).
Edited by Culinuthiast - 5/4/10 at 9:36am