International Women’s Day

The women bartenders who are shaking things up

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

International Women's Day: Bartenders
International Women's Day: Bartenders

Related tags: Women

Great skills on the bar are coveted by any cocktail outlet worth its salt. Here five top women bartenders in the trade tell their stories, how they got to where they are and what's next.

Name: Mia Johansson

Mia Johansson

Job title:​ Bar owner at Swift, Soho, central London

How you got there:
Through 12 years of various hospitality categories – from front of house to back of house, to breakfast setup, to pouring pints, to bartending in the best bars in the world – I realised that my favourite part about it are the humans that you both work with on a daily basis and you get to meet through life. Owning a bar is a challenging task, but it is so rewarding.

Where you see yourself next:
I am hoping to keep on growing the perspective of what hospitality is, and how we treat people in our industry, from co-workers to delivery people.

I also dream of having more projects that will challenge me in a creative way.

Biggest issue for women in our trade right now:
Our voices are being heard more than ever before now, and making sure they are being heard in the right way, as well as being inclusive of all other genders, is something that can be very difficult but very important to get right.

What, if any, experiences of sexism in the workplace have you encountered?:
I have been working side-by-side with my husband for nearly nine years, and often, when I was younger, people would just want to speak to him on various topics because they assumed he was the one in charge.

Sometimes we have to work a little bit harder to have our voices heard, but everyone faces different struggles.

Your advice to others who want to achieve what you have:
Work hard, cry a lot, don’t hold it in, but also remember to enjoy it when it is good.

Whatever stage you are at, and in whatever field of hospitality you are in, you are in charge of making it your own, and becoming the best you.

Remember to ask for help, nobody is born knowing how to do everything, and we all need a helping hand from time to time. Be proud of yourself, you are your best you, and that is what makes you special.

Name: Anna Sebastian

Job title:​ Artesian bar manager at The Langham Hotel, Portland Place, Marylebone, west London

How you got there:
Like a lot of people I fell into the industry and had previous careers before.  Sadly being British the idea of a career in hospitality certainly when I was at school doesn’t really exist, it was something you just did in your summer holiday.

Anna Sebastian pic Paul Judd Food Photography
(pic credit: Paul Judd Photography)

When I left school I was going to be in the army and was doing my training, unfortunately I got ill and was unable to continue but it taught me a lot about team work and a sense of unity.

From that I started working in nightclubs which really made me fall in love with the idea of being able to create a magical moment in a space when all the different elements came together.

I was working during the day in PR for bars and restaurants which allowed me to see the other side of the industry.

I joined The Savoy in 2010 for the reopening which was really a pivotal moment in my career.

I started there as a host in the American Bar and left as the Beaufort Bar Manager. I joined the Artesian Bar at the Langham Hotel in 2017 where I get to manage an amazing team.

Where you see yourself next:
I love the fact that in the Langham we have an amazing growing portfolio so I would love to be able to travel around the world designing beverage and service programmes for teams.

As well of course staying close to our team and the Artesian.

Biggest issue for women in our trade right now:
There truly is not enough of us, it is getting better for sure and there are some amazing women out there who are so inspiring and ballsy.

The more we talk about it to anyone that will listen the more women will join.

What, if any, experiences of sexism in the workplace have you encountered?:
We are very lucky at the Langham as we work in an environment where we are protected and our clientele are fantastic.

I have heard and worked in places that are not always like that.  For me it is really important that the team feel safe and comfortable in an environment and I will always take a stand against any behaviour that does not support that. 

Your advice to others who want to achieve what you have:
Know what you want and even if you don’t never settle for something that is not the best, whether that is behaviour, a dish, a drink or how a napkin is folded.

Think of yourself as a brand, act accordingly, how do you want people to perceive you?  What do you want to be known for?  Most importantly, have fun.  Life’s too short not to.

Name: Amber Clements

Amber Clements

Job title:​ In-store Trainer, at The Alchemist

How you got there​:
I got here by proving I work hard and have a lot of passion for my job and really enjoy what I do.

Where you see yourself next:
I would like to be a head bartender, and I’ll keep working hard to get there.

Biggest issue for women in our trade right now:
There’s only two females on the bar that I work on so it is a very male dominated industry, but I think it is changing and women aren’t afraid to show that you can do the exact same job just as well if not better.

What, if any, experiences of sexism in the workplace have you encountered?:
In my career I’ve been very lucky to not experience sexism really. Although I have seen it and it isn’t the way forward.

A women is as strong and capable of doing anything a man can do and I think the world is slowly starting to see that. Slowly!

Your advice to others who want to achieve what you have:
My advice would be to be you, don’t be discouraged by anyone or what they think or say.

If you know what you want then go and get it. Just show anyone around you or in your way that you can do it. It can be difficult but I think that makes it worth it at the end.

Name: Faye Kennedy

Job title: ​Bartender, the Alchemist

How you got there:
I started working on a bar at the age of 16. I've grown up working and at one point almost living in a pub, so I've always had a passion for making drinks.

Faye Kennedy

During uni I worked in a nightclub which was obviously a very different scene to a pub, but this inspired me to improve my bartending and get a job in a cocktail bar after I graduated.

Where you see yourself next:
Hopefully becoming an IST (in store trainer) and being able to train up the new bar staff. My main aim though is to keep expanding my knowledge and improving on my skills so that I can be an inspiration to the newer bartenders.

Biggest issue for women in our trade right now:
As bartending is a male dominated field, it can be tough to prove yourself as a female.

Despite this, within the company we have a lot of incredible women that have inspired me to push myself, such as my manager (Daisy) and our IST (Abbey).

I feel like the bar I work on is very gender balanced, unlike many others, so it's not predominantly an issue.

There is an expectation that to be a female bartender, you must be hugely outgoing, almost as if you must possess stereotypically male gender traits to succeed in the industry.

I think it's important to stay true to yourself and not change who you are to fit the expectations of others. If you change to fit in a system that is fundamentally sexist, you're only fuelling the problem.

I'm aware of my privilege to work in such a diverse and fair company but I'm still aware and willing to speak up for the fact that this is not the case across all workplaces within industry.

What, if any, experiences of sexism in the workplace have you encountered?:
I think it can be hard dealing with sexist comments from customers, particularly if they are commenting on your physical appearance.

I'm lucky enough to work with men and women who stand up for each other in these situations and ensure the customer is refused service for inappropriate behavior.

I have previously worked with staff members that treated me differently because I'm a young female, however I finally stood up for myself and they were dealt with by management.

It's important that senior staff are aware that women are still treated differently so that if something is to happen, they can deal with it accordingly.

Your advice to others who want to achieve what you have:
My main advice to any girl wanting to become a bartender would be to not let stereotypes drive you away from your passion.

I'm not the most confident person, but it's important to stand up for yourself and believe you are as fit for the job as somebody else. You need to believe in your own drive and skills to be able to show to other people that you can be incredible.

I've found that if I've ever been in a situation where I feel uncomfortable but I'm not able to deal with it myself that I can rely on the support of the team to stand up for me.

Name: Jillian Vose

Jillian Vose

Job title:​ Beverage Director and Partner at The Dead Rabbit, NYC 

How you got there:
Been in the bar business since I was 17. I worked in a brewery pub for 5 years, then fine dining and then cocktail bars. See bio attached. 

Where you see yourself next:​ Well, I don't plan on going anywhere, I'm quite grounded at Dead Rabbit, especially after being made a partner of the business.

I do see myself taking on more oversight of new projects and being less of a figure physically behind the bar during service. I look forward to teaching and mentoring more bartenders that go through our training programs. 

Biggest issue for women in our trade right now:​ Being criticized more than others at times, being more subject to confrontation than men might experience and equal salaries all seem to be topics that come up with my female peers and from personal experience over my 16is years in the business. 

What, if any, experiences of sexism in the workplace have you encountered?:​ But also, I've had people who didn't believe in me or would put their own egos above mine, but it ended up that it just wasn't the best work environment or people for me to be associated with.

So I moved on and always sought out businesses, mentors and bar programs that do work for me and have a positive impact on my career. 

Your advice to others who want to achieve what you have: My advice to others who would like to be in my position would be to work hard, know your shit, don't take any shit and be confident in your ability.

If you do the work and can back yourself up, the confidence will come. Also, don't complain, just get on with it!

This job is very unforgiving at times, but seeing your colleagues succeed and your bar healthy and happy is very gratifying. 

Related topics: Spirits & Cocktails

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