International Women's Day 2021

'Vast improvements' for women working in pubs

By Debbie Baisden, the Rayleigh Arms, Terling, Essex

- Last updated on GMT

Developed role: 'When I look back, I am grateful for the changes and the education it has brought forward in many aspects of my life'
Developed role: 'When I look back, I am grateful for the changes and the education it has brought forward in many aspects of my life'

Related tags: Pub, Essex, Gender, Women, Staff

My younger self did not take any notice of such events as International Women’s Day.

Sure, somewhere in my head an inner me would say maybe this is something you should be looking at, but I didn’t – instead I would’ve joined in with banter about burning the bra or some other kind of remark. 

As the reality is, I was brought up in a working-class environment with family events at the local social club and male boozers being the norm.

Even at nineteen as a van driver and part time bar maid (bar person) delivering work wear to predominantly male work sites. 

It was on more than one occasion I would see a topless calendar in a yard I delivered to. Let’s just acknowledge for one moment that, it was only in January 2015, six years ago in fact, that page three called time. 

You’re probably scratching your head and wondering how this affects hospitality? In my opinion when such presentations of women were entertained then it was only natural the same attitude would eventually end up in a pub. 

Pub life can be as equally as intimidating, if boundaries have not been set. 

Debbie2

‘Vast improvements’

I would find ways to get out of certain conversations without being confrontational when any comments about my gender would rise – as this was part of my job both behind the wheel and the bar. 

Pub landladies I looked up too appeared in soaps such as Angie Watts, Bet Lynch and the more recent Peggy Mitchell. These characters were never seen as weak women but successful entrepreneurs of their time. 

However, the role of the pub landlady has developed over the years. She is now focusing on her business with a new zest of commercialism, considering ways to adapt the pub whether it be a takeaway deli, bed and breakfast or indeed offering a wedding reception. 

It is no longer to prop up her partner while she drinks a dry martini and lemonade, serving up a pickled egg and pint of mild. She knows along with her male colleagues it makes good business sense to attract female customers.

Fast forward thirty years there have been vast improvements for women working in the industry with more opportunities and an improvement in services offered.  

The revolution in wine certainly attracted more female trade let alone the various choices of gin and feminine packaged bottles. 

It is more acceptable for a woman to run her own pub or indeed visit a pub on her own whether for a coffee and food or an alcoholic beverage – times have changed. Although there is still further development required in regard to sexist remarks and pay inequality. 

This year’s theme #ChooseToChallenge​ is part of the ongoing campaign by International Women’s Day to accelerate women’s equality. So now you won’t hear me cracking one burn the bra gag. 

When I look back, I am grateful for the changes and the education it has brought forward in many aspects of my life. 

I no longer compare myself to pub landladies on the soaps, instead I created a satirical one called Dolly Slatemen, a mish mash of many pub landlady experiences watched and lived.  

Dressed like a protegee of Bet Lynch she will be appearing in my one woman show​ at the Cliffs in Southend, Essex. 

The very fact that we can laugh at such stereotypes shows us how far we have come. 

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