Companies and organizations around the world have been making supportive statements to celebrate International Women's Day, but one tweet from Burger King U.K. is raising eyebrows.
The chain, which uses different Twitter handles for its United Kingdom and United States operations, posted "Women belong in the kitchen" on its United Kingdom account Monday morning.
In subsequent tweets, the company made it clear that they weren't trying to insult women or female chefs. Instead, they were trying to draw attention to the "gender ratio in the restaurant industry" with a new scholarship program.
While the overall message was supportive, many criticized Burger King U.K. for the tweet. As a result of Twitter's format, many people only saw the first tweet in the thread, leading to some misinterpretation of what the brand meant.
One woman pointed out that the first two posts could easily have been combined into one tweet.
Other users said that the initial "Women belong in the kitchen" post had received much more attention than the post talking about the scholarship program.
A Burger King spokesperson told TODAY Food that the company had made a "mistake" in announcing the initiative with that format.
"We are committed to helping women break through a male-dominated culinary culture in the world’s fine dining restaurants — and sometimes that requires drawing attention to the problem we’re trying to help fix," said a Burger King spokesperson. "Our tweet in the U.K. today was designed to draw attention to the fact that only a small percentage of chefs and head chefs are women. It was our mistake to not include the full explanation in our initial tweet and have adjusted our activity moving forward because we’re sure that when people read the entirety of our commitment, they will share our belief in this important opportunity."
On social media, the Burger King U.K. account began replying to commentators who questioned the joke.
When KFC posted a meme that said the tweet should be deleted, Burger King U.K. asked why they would do such a thing.
"Why would we delete a tweet that's been drawing attention to a huge lack of female representation in our industry, we thought you'd be on board with this as well?" asked the chain. "We've launched a scholarship to help give more of our female employees the chance to pursue a culinary career."
When another user questioned whether the announcement's format was a good idea, Burger King U.K. responded that the tweet was "(bringing) attention the huge lack of female representation in the restaurant industry."
"Yeah we think it's a good idea," the chain continued before again emphasizing the scholarship.
Another user joked that the restaurant has "always belonged in the trash"; Burger King U.K. said that the only thing that deserved to be thrown away was "the lack of female representation in our industry."
On Twitter, Burger King U.K. did not share any further details about the scholarship program, but a Burger King spokesperson told TODAY that the Burger King H.E.R. (Helping Equalize Restaurants) Scholarship would be part of the chain's Foundation Scholars Program, which has awarded more than $3 million in scholarships to support female team members in North America.
The chain confirmed that the newly created scholarship would "help female team members who are interested in or pursuing a degree in culinary arts" and said that similar programs would be announced in the U.K. and in Mexico, calling the scholarship a "start in doing our small part to help women in the culinary field" achieve their goals.
"Women belong in the kitchen. They belong in fine dining kitchens, food truck kitchens, BK Restaurant kitchens, award-winning kitchens, casual dining kitchens, and ghost kitchens," said the company. "But there's a problem — women occupy only 7 percent of head chef positions in restaurants today. So Burger King is going to do something about it in their own kitchens."