This year’s International Women’s Day campaign theme #BalanceforBetter is all about encouraging the celebration of women’s achievements while calling for a more gender-balanced world.
Ahead of March 8, Zoe Fryday catches up with some of the leading ladies in drinks and hospitality to discuss entrepreneurship, success and the powerful subject of gender equality.
Joyce and Raisa de Haas
Twin sisters Joyce and Raissa are the co-founders of premium soft drink and mixer brand Double Dutch. Since launching the collection to the market in 2015, key milestones for the dynamic duo include selling their one millionth bottle, employing their first team, taking the company from home to an office, gaining their first export customer and doubling sales year on year.
Raissa says: “The drinks industry is predominantly male – something we’ve experienced first-hand through our customers and other brands. However, we think it’s important to use this to your advantage; the industry is greatly about brand recognition, and being twins in a male dominated industry, we like to think we’re quite memorable.”
Joyce adds: “There are promising signs of change, with a number of amazing female bartenders and sommeliers on the rise. Women are changing the industry in a different way. When we won Richard Branson’s Foodpreneur Award in 2015, it was great to see that out of the five winners, four of us were female, highlighting the rise in female recognition.”
Canadian-born Megs has spent the last 14 years travelling the world, working in top cocktail bars, developing and nurturing a passion for agave. Most recently she was the UK ambassador for Altos Tequila and since then has set up creative bar agency Comunidad with Dre Masso and Rhys Wilson. She continues to spread agave love as Global Tahona Society ambassador and now leads the helm at new west London bar Fam where she is venue manager.
Megs says: “Thinking back over the past 14 years in all the hospitality jobs I have worked, I unfortunately find it very easy to recall times and situations where I have felt lessened because of the fact that I was female. At the time, these said situations were normalised by our industry, but it simply made me want to prove that I could do any job put in front of me.
“There are still many obstacles to overcome for women in our industry – I mean we still only make up 26% of senior management in hospitality and travel. There are still venues where the ‘boys club’ mentality is overwhelming. There’s still the stigma of guests assuming that the senior member of staff or bartender is the male and that the female is the waitress. There’s the ‘problem’ of women being viewed as too emotional, comparing this to being too weak.”
Shervene has been working with Bacardí for over ten years. In her current role as head of advocacy, she helps shape the global strategy for the brand, and has been integral to some of Bacardí’s biggest campaigns, including the Bacardí Legacy Cocktail Competition. Prior to her work with Bacardí, Shervene managed the award-winning bar Voodoo Rooms in Scotland where she made a name for herself by entering and winning multiple national bartender competitions.
“For me, the industry is creative, dynamic, fast-moving and inspiring,” says Shervene. “I have worked in drinks most of my life and have found it to be supportive and encouraging throughout my career. Being a woman has never factored into it; I have never noticed any prejudice or missed opportunity but have always found it to be fantastically diverse. I think balance is a very encouraging message. I have a team of 14 ambassadors and it happens to be 50/50 male, female, each picked for their work merit rather than gender.”
Claire began her corporate career in 2003, joining the LVMH-owned brand Belvedere Vodka. In her role a head of spirit creation and mixology, she led the development of all new expressions and created global educational programmes. A tireless advocate for better health and wellness, Claire joined the alcohol-free world of Seedlip at the beginning of 2018. In December, Seedlip announced the launch of sister brand Æcorn Aperitifs, with Claire at the helm.
Claire says: “When you consider that in many parts of our industry there are gender pay gaps to be addressed, that women are still underrepresented at executive levels and that less women appear to put themselves forward for events that are high profile and have the potential to be career defining, there is still clearly work to be done, to help ensure women are being supported, that they are seen and crucially that they are given the same pay and opportunities as their male counterparts.
“The bottom line is that inclusivity adds value to any business. By harnessing female talent through mentorship initiatives like Women Mean Business or Girls Network and addressing inequality at all levels, we will be not only be supporting women, but securing our industry’s future.”
Annabel is the CEO and founder of independent, organic whisky distillery Ncn’ean. She has been working on Ncn’ean for about five years and seen it through from an idea on a bit of paper, through to a £7.5m fundraise, a year and a half of building and now nearly two years of production. It’s a real change from her previous job as a strategy consultant in central London.
“Being a woman in the industry is great. I would love to see more women in whisky and in the bar industry. We are lucky at Ncn’ean to employ more women than men, so on a day to day basis it feels very normal.
“Most industries are not yet truly gender-balanced. I think part of whisky’s problem is the perception that its drinkers are or should be men. I suspect that if there were more women working in the industry, that would change. I think the main way to achieve this is to showcase the many women that already work in the industry and tell their stories, and to actively recruit women at all levels.”
Deborah De Vittoris
Having worked in hospitality for 20 years, Deborah is one of Yorkshire’s most respected female professionals. In 1999, she started Hairy Lemon, a leisure marketing and events company, which was shortly followed by the opening of Oracle, a bar, restaurant and boutique nightclub, in 2005. Following its success, Deborah opened two further venues, Battered, Azucar and The Loft, and in 2013, merged Hairy Lemon with PR agency Pink Gorilla. Over the last five years, she has worked with almost every independent and national leisure brand in the city.
Deborah comments: “15-20 years ago, it was difficult to prove to people that a 5.2ft woman could succeed or be taken seriously in a traditionally male dominated industry. It didn’t faze me. I shouted louder until I was heard and if anything, it made me even more determined and driven to succeed.
“Thankfully things are much better today; there are lots of women in senior roles within the industry. Take for example, Oracle. When we first opened, all management positions and most of the bar staff were all men but now we have a senior female manager, more girls than guys both behind the bar and working on the floor, female security and a female DJ.”
Talula left her career in advertising in 2017 to set up Sekforde Drinks, a company specialising in bespoke botanical mixers. Sekforde began its life in Talula’s kitchen and was born out of her frustration with the status quo. As a big fan of bourbon and rum, she found that the choice of mixers available was limited, so wanted to create something for every spirit. No two days are the same for Talula, with plentiful tasting sessions with bartenders, speaking at lifestyle events and ongoing new drinks development.
“Working in the drinks industry is inspiring. You are surrounded by women invested in doing something different and creating change. There is a wonderful camaraderie and sisterhood, lots of support for each other’s ideas and a desire to be part of something,” says Talula.
“Yet it does have its challenges. We all know about the gender pay gap in big firms but there is a less well-known gap in early enterprise funding – companies started by women attract just one penny in every pound at this level. As I’ll be looking to raise new funds to take Sekforde to the next level this year, I’ll need to round up quite a few of those pennies!”
How are bars and brands celebrating Women’s Day?
To support the representation of women in beer, Five Points is hosting a panel event series at the Pembury Tavern, showcasing leading female brewers as they discuss ‘Women in Beer’.
The series will launch on 7 March to coincide with International Women’s Day. Across the series, Five Points is partnering with female-led charity Rosa, which supports initiatives set up to benefit women and girls in the UK.
The first panel will be hosted by Angelica Malin, editor and founder of About Time Magazine, with speakers to include Duvel marketing manager and beer sommelier Natalya Watson, brewing professor Rachel Sutherland, Sophie De Ronde, head brewer at Burnt Mill Brewery and founder of International Women’s Collaborative Brew Days (IWCBD), Honest Brews’ art director Britney Beeby and Charlotte Owen, head of customer experience at Honest Brew. Discussions will explore the challenges and journeys that women brewers, writers and professors have faced in the industry.
To mark the occasion, Five Points will also be unveiling its limited edition specially brewed Straight Up Pale Ale, made in collaboration with online retailer Honest Brew.
On 8 March, Fam will be hosting its Female Fam Fiesta, a vibrant party to mark this International Women’s Day 2019. Multiple male and female brand ambassadors will sponsor the evening and all profits will go towards a women’s charity of the bar’s choice.
Fam’s Bruce Govia and Ryan MacPherson will be joined by Jack Hubbard and Rhys Wilson who will be tending the bar for free, in support of symbolic equal pay for women. The Fam ladies, Megs, Zoë and Virginia, will get paid their normal wage while taking the night off to enjoy the festivities. According to the team, guests can expect great cocktails, all female vinyl and a fierce amount of fun.
To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March, newly reopened The Bedford in Balham is putting on a special Banana Cabaret comedy gig with an all female line up, featuring Joanne McNally, Mary Bourke, Tania Edwards and Jess Fostekew. Tickets for the event are priced at £15. For every ticket sold, £2 will be donated to the Malala Fund, a charity which champions the right for every girl to have access to twelve years of free, safe, quality education.
Ada Coleman, an icon for the feminist movement in hospitality, was the first head bartender of the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in 1903. In celebration of International Women’s Day 2019, Looking Glass Cocktail Club bartender Debora Cacciapuoti decided to create a twist on Ada’s most famous cocktail, the Hanky Panky.
35ml Distilled Hanky Panky
15ml Portobello Road Gin
20ml Italian white vermouth
2 dash Orange bitters
Stir all the ingredients and pour onto an ice block. Garnish with a lemon twist.