Laura Willoughby, founder of mindful drinking movement Club SodaBest advice you’ve received
Do one thing and do it well – it is still the best advice despite the fact I seem incapable of following it.Best advice you’ve given
Be collaborative and as helpful as you can when people ask advice, time is a generous and nourishing gift – it always comes back to hug you in the end and it is great to see people succeed.What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Talking about alcohol-free in an alcohol-dominated world has not been easy but perseverance is key, the same when looking to create a more diverse hostility sector. Listen to those talking about it, they are not going away.Have things changed for women in the sector since you began your career?
I am still quite new to hospitality. I have had background in politics and social tech, and what has been interesting is how similar the issues are.
Investors/donors back people that look and think like them so getting investment as a woman is hard. For every £1 of venture capital (VC) investment in the UK, all-female founder teams get less than 1p, all-male founder teams get 89p, and mixed-gender teams 10p. (Source: https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/uk-vc-female-founders-report/)
It also happens in every other aspect of the hospitality business too, from hiring to the drinks and food you choose to stock and the panels at trade shows. Some of these things are easier to change than others but they need to be changed consciously.
What are the barriers that are still to be overcome and how could this be tackled?
We can all do a mini audit and start with small steps such as trade show organisers proactively striving for diversity at their events.How can the sector #EmbraceEquity?
On-trade venues already have some exceptional talent in their teams so think about how you can nurture it and lean on amazing schemes support you to do it like Drinks Trust’s Develop, Equal Measures and the Double Dutch Scholarship to support you.
Individually, listen to diverse voices and accept their experience as true. It’s easy to find excuses or even feel defensive when challenged about how we approach diversity. We all get it wrong sometimes. I certainly do. We learn best when we listen and with respect.
Georgina Young, brewing director of St Austell BreweryBest advice you’ve received
Be persistent. Keep going and never give up.Best advice you’ve given
Be persistent. Keep going and never give up – and don’t cry in public.What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Always having to prove yourself, whether that was physically in the first few jobs when being hands-on but actually it never seems to stop.
I still have the same passion and have never lost my enthusiasm for beer but now it is about proving business decisions are successful such as choosing a supplier or signing a malt contract or whether a new beer is commercially viable.Have things changed for women in the sector since you began your career?
There are certainly more women in the industry now than when I joined back in 1993, which is great.
It is lovely to see more friendly faces when you enter a pub or attend an industry event.
It is certainly not quite so daunting. Some of my closest friends are male brewers who have been in the industry for many years. They have supported me and helped me with technical challenges. In my experience, it has only ever been a minority of industry folk who have been inappropriate with their jokes and language.What are the barriers that are still to be overcome and how could this be tackled?
Everyone deserves a fair chance but we have to support, train and coach every member of our teams to help them succeed.
As a leader in an organisation, one has to be so much more than just a brewer and be able to make beer. I am sure not all woman (or men) get that support and they should do.How can the sector #EmbraceEquity?
We need to talk and promote the brewing and hospitality sector more to encourage wider diversity. Young people at school and university aren’t always aware of the diverse nature of the roles available so wouldn’t think to join the industry.
The satisfaction of making a beer (it is some much more than just a product, drink or liquid) is huge. I know so many people who don’t enjoy their jobs as much as us brewers because they don’t have that fundamental love for their product.
Annabel Smith, beer sommelier and head of training at Cask MarqueBest advice you’ve received
Never say you can’t – you can. There’s always a way.Best advice you’ve given
If you don’t know the answer, ask the question. There’s no such thing as a daft question.What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Having to work twice as hard and shout much louder to establish my beer industry credentials time and time again in order to be taken seriously. “You don’t really drink beer, do you?” is a common question.Have things changed for women in the sector since you began your career?
I think they’ve changed enormously, in a positive way – 30 years ago there were very few women in senior positions in the hospitality sector and particularly in the beer sector.
This absence of gender balance and diversity meant many talented women didn’t consider the sector as a viable (or attractive) career choice. It’s been a pleasure to observe the emergence of trailblazing women as leaders, influencing change in the industry and having a voice.
Some women have had to really put their neck on the line both personally and professionally to instigate this change and be heard.What are the barriers that are still to be overcome and how could this be tackled?
1) Some of the terminology used within the beer industry is still very patriarchal. For example, cellarmanship, drayman, landlord. It perpetuates and reinforces the attitude that beer is for men. We all need to mindful of the language we use, actively correcting as we go forward.
2) Work-life balance is not being addressed adequately: for many women in this industry, their career path grinds to a halt when they have children, and equally later in life when they inevitably take on a carer role for elderly parents. A few lessons could and should be learned from the public sector which has successfully implemented many policies and procedures to retain their workforce.How can the sector #EmbraceEquity?
Make women in brewing, beer and pubs more visible. Women working in the beer sector and women drinking beer are not a ‘novelty’.
They should be recognised for their strengths, successes and achievements regardless of their gender not because of it.
Nidhi Sharma, brewer at Meantime Brewing CompanyBest advice you’ve received
My mother’s tenacious enthusiasm towards everything she ever does has been a touchstone I return to on a daily basis.Best advice you’ve given
Always realise your own value and acknowledge your responsibilities.What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Adapting and learning across three separate countries in the first three years of my career required a lot of dogged resolution. I am glad that I went through it.Have things changed for women in the sector since you began your career?
I began brewing in India where being a female brewer was not acceptable in some quarters and still isn’t. Conversely, I have found the industry in the UK to be welcoming and supportive with a plethora of female peers.What are the barriers that are still to be overcome and how could this be tackled?
Women need to be able to picture themselves in roles like mine from an earlier age and although this is slowly changing, there aren’t enough faces out there for them to identify with.
Vocational courses and apprenticeships led by women would at once give them role models and mentors to aid their journey.How can the sector #EmbraceEquity?
Workplaces should have learning spaces where everyone can engage with the concept of inclusivity, diversity, and equity.
There should be forums where open conversations can be had regarding how people feel about the space they occupy within the company and the sector at large.
There should be constant efforts in understanding what more can be done to create a work environment that cares for and nurtures every individual and their goals.
The more we talk about these very real issues, the more we destigmatise them. This could then spearhead change, sector wide, making the drinks industry not just a safe and thriving space for women but for every single person that feels underrepresented.
Gemma Wakeham, chief marketing officer of rum brand Two DriftersBest advice you’ve received
If it was easy, it would already be done.Best advice you’ve given
Know exactly where you want your business to go – obstacles, people and competitors will try to divert you but stay true to your vision. It doesn’t matter how many bends there are in the road, as long as you keep going forward on your own course.What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Financing our growth. It has amazed me how expensive success is.Have things changed for women in the sector since you began your career?
Definitely. Rum has been a male-dominated spirit for years but rum is such a fun, colourful, vibrant spirit that it should be enjoyed by everyone. Two Drifters is attracting a much more feminine demographic with our fresh and modern rums and elegant branding, we are so much more than rum and coke.What are the barriers that are still to be overcome and how could this be tackled?
We need to show there are opportunities for women in the operation of the distillery, not just the branding and marketing of the end product.
I’ve done it all, I’m now managing the marketing department but I still do my share of distilling because it’s a team effort and great fun.How can the sector #EmbraceEquity?
Stop looking at gender, look at the person. In our sector, it’s all about the team and working together. A great rum that makes a great cocktail from a great brand with a great story has nothing to do with gender.
Ciara Barr, commercial capability manager at Asahi UKBest advice you’ve received
I think the best advice is more of an observation from my previous manager and HR director at Asahi UK. No matter what you do, always have empathy.
The impact of treating people with kindness and respect goes a long way. She left the business a few years ago now and people still talk about the way she handled various situations with genuine care, balancing what was right for the person and the business with real grace.Best advice you’ve given
Don’t be scared to ask for something you want in your career.
In my previous role as head of talent acquisition, I had lots of career chats with people and one thing I noticed was that women felt particularly uncomfortable talking about salary or flexible hours, compared to their male colleagues who generally didn’t have a problem asking the question.
My advice was always to ask what you think is fair and be clear on the benefits to business. You might not get what you want every time but it is definitely worth asking.What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
I had my boys very close together and decided to take a short career break. Returning to a new role, in a new business and new industry after four years was really daunting. I hadn’t realised how much of my confidence I had lost and adjusting and navigating the work-life balance and general ‘mum guilt’ took a long time.Have things changed for women in the sector since you began your career?
Things are definitely moving in the right direction but we need to keep the momentum and focus on this topic. Not just gender balance but inclusivity in all forms.What are the barriers that are still to be overcome and how could this be tackled?
Lots of businesses have committed to some great gender equality targets but we should be thinking broader. How can we ensure we have metrics that encompass all diversity?How can the sector #EmbraceEquity?
Flexibility and support from leadership teams. Active listening and encouraging open conversations.