Welcome to The Shout’s Industry Women Spotlight Series. In this series, we share the stories of women from across the industry, raising awareness for the challenges they face and passing on their advice for the next generation.
Through these regular profiles, we aim to hero the visibility and inspiration that is common on International Women’s Day, supporting the voices of women in different sectors of the liquor and hospitality industry. It’s important these conversations happen more frequently than just once a year.
After a short break, we are back, showcasing the story of Alice Newport, Brand Specialist for gin, agave and Les Nouveaux Distillers at Pernod Ricard, who is so passionate about the industry, she can’t keep herself away from it.
It’s been that way for Newport since she was 13, when her dad managed a nightclub in her hometown in the UK. She recalls helping stock the fridges before opening night, then coming back the next day to the smell of sweat, stale beer and cigarettes in the carpet.
Newport said she thought it was “like the most incredible thing ever, which is such a weird thing for a 13 year old to think.”
But she had grown up around hospitality venues – pubs were often a place where families around her would catch up and bring the kids along, so she always felt comfortable in them. As she continued to grow up, that love of hospitality would also grow.
“I just loved that feeling of how it brought us all together, and that feeling of a great night out,” Newport reflected.
This continued when Newport moved to Australia, and began working in nightclubs and bars, before eventually moving into a more corporate role outside of the industry. But it pulled her back in, and she would end up working at pubs on the weekend or doing rockstar shifts, simply because she loved it.
“There’s been times when I’ve tried to get out, and I just haven’t been able to. In 2016, I finally realised it was because this was the industry I really, really wanted to be involved in,” Newport said.
“While that’s only six years ago, but I’ve been working in the industry almost 20 years now I’d say. And even now, I’m a full time Brand Specialist and I still do one to two shifts in service a week.”
Benefits from both sides
While it’s a love of hospitality that has kept Newport working in venues alongside her Brand Specialist role, there is also another element that she loves about having the two types of work.
From when she first moved to Sydney (where she is currently based) to now, Newport said being connected to different types of industry work has given her valuable insights that apply to both roles she works in.
“When I first moved to Sydney and I moved into this role, it was really helpful at giving me an understanding of the industry – how people were drinking, and the drinks that consumers were engaging with, as that was evolving. That was very useful in the beginning,” she said.
“Now, it keeps my mind fresh and excited, which I like. And working in different types of venues gives me a great understanding of different types of service, which makes me better as well.
“What’s kept me here is that I really like the end to end experience you can give when you’re hosting and you’re on the floor. That’s what I’ve moved more into on the service side of things. And it’s also what I love about being a Brand Specialist too, because I get to work on cool projects with venues to make their customer experience even more exciting and better.”
In a career driven by such passion, there are many things that Newport would love about what she does, and many highlights along the way. But some of the most defining moments are those that have served as examples of why it’s important to always put yourself out there.
One of these defining moments was moving across Australia from where she was living in Perth, to live in Queensland, a state she had never lived in before.
“Deciding to take the plunge and move cities was pretty significant. It was challenging because I didn’t know where anything was or who anyone was, but that showed me I can be quite resourceful. From there, I fostered some of the incredible relationships I have now, and some of my best friends in the world have come from moving there,” Newport said.
Another key moment of Newport’s career, and one she says she will never forget, is the first time she met the person who helped get her into the Brand Specialist role she now loves. It was when she was working at Crowbar in Brisbane, on a quiet Wednesday night, when a man comes in alone, sits at the bar and orders a Jameson soda. Chatting away, Newport found out he was the Jameson Brand Ambassador, and they formed a friendship from there which would lead her through advocacy and learning programs and eventually into her current job.
“I just think, if I hadn’t been working that Wednesday, I might not be here. That point in time was extremely pivotal,” Newport said.
It’s important to be present
Despite many reports of the industry being male dominated, Newport said she has been lucky to both work in and frequently visit venues where female staff outnumber the males. But she recognised that not everywhere is like this, and because of that, unconscious bias still impacts many women in the industry.
“There are a few issues I’ve had over time, like being lowballed on salaries, struggling to get into the room for the important conversations, that kind of stuff,” Newport said.
“But I’ve worked with some male teams that have been some of the most developmental and supportive teams I’ve actually ever worked with, so I think I’m a bit of an anomaly in this space. Have I faced issues? Yes. Is there anything abnormal or out of the ordinary about these issues? No. And I hate that that is the ordinary.”
A complementary challenge that Newport called out was the ‘cliquey-ness’ of the industry, which impacts all genders when trying to break into new hospitality workplaces or communities. She said that, understandably, many people try to take the staff they know and appreciate from venue to venue, and that can sometimes make certain teams become more dominated by one gender.
This is why Newport says it’s important for young women to always be present when they first start out in the industry, as that is one of the biggest keys to getting your foot in the door in a place where you don’t know anyone.
“Show up to trainings, show up to industry events, do everything you can so that you can meet people and people can meet you, while also developing your knowledge… you’ve got to build a good network in the industry,” Newport said.
“And be helpful – there are so many ways you can be helpful and learn different parts of the business, and that’s important because people want to work with people who want to work. I think it’s super easy to get complacent when you’re in an industry that is all about having a good time.”