Being a woman in the restaurant industry has its challenges ― from sexual harassment, to unfair compensation to inadequate access to health insurance. Being a woman in the restaurant industry in Texas presents a whole additional set of obstacles.
Just 14 percent of restaurant employees across the country receive health insurance benefits from their employers, meaning many rely on publicly funded resources for health care. But that’s not so simple in Texas: These types of health centers in the state meet only 10 percent of the need, according to a 2014 report from the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Texas is also one of the worst states for reproductive health. In 2011, for example, the state cut its family planning budget by two-thirds, which led to an increase in teen abortions and births. That same year, it also rejected federal funding for a Medicaid women’s health program, the Texas Tribune reported.
Women’s health care became a huge concern for Erin Smith, owner of Feges BBQ in Houston. Her outrage grew when Donald Trump became president. “At each step in the political process over the past two years, everything’s so uncertain, and we need to take a stand and let people know the threat women are facing in health care, especially in Texas,” Smith told HuffPost.
In 2017, the chef helped form I’ll Have What She’s Having, an organization fronted by chefs, bartenders and servers that’s raising money and awareness to combat the assault on women’s health care in Texas. The group’s footprint is small, but it offers resources to women in an area where the need is great.
IHWSH has helped its nearly 200 members, all of whom are women in the restaurant industry, access free gynecological exams. “[Exams] are typically not covered under insurance,” Smith said, adding, “a lot of the women are not provided insurance through employment, and most don’t have insurance on their own.”