International Women’s Day is held on 8 March every year as a day to celebrate women’s strengths and to continue the fight for gender equality. As we all know, the liquor industry is about much more than just the products on the shelf. It is also an industry of connection and collaboration.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, National Liquor News spoke to influential women across the Australian liquor industry about their experiences and achievements, and we will be sharing a series of profiles online, and in the March issue of the magazine.

Today, Tess Sharp, People Advisor at Endeavour Group and Retail Drinks Australia’s Young Liquor Retailer of the Year, shares her own understanding of gender equality in liquor retail, and the importance of diversity and inclusion to the industry.

NLN: Could you tell us how you got into the industry, and what kind of places your career has taken you?

TS: I first got into the industry in 2017 at the age of 24, when I applied for an Assistant Store Manager position at Dan Murphy’s after working in tourism for four years. Ultimately, I applied for the role to support myself while I was still studying at university and had very little knowledge of the industry itself. However, little did I know that seven years later, I would be absolutely in love with the sector I work in. My career with the wider Endeavour Group has ultimately shaped who I am today, helped me to become confident in myself and challenge myself not only professionally but personally as well. I started as an Assistant Store Manager and as of the start of 2024, I am now a permanent People Advisor within the HR function of Endeavour Group.  

NLN: Have there been any highlights or really defining moments of your career so far?

TS: Well, where to start? I feel quite privileged in respect to the opportunities that I have been given at Endeavour Group. I successfully graduated their internal pathways leadership program and got the keys to my first store in 2021 and was appointed as the NSW/ACT Community State Lead to help advocate and support the roll out of our charity partnership with GIVIT. This is something I am incredibly proud of because to date, Dan Murphy’s has raised more than $2 million through our GIVIT charity partnership, and this is going directly back to our local communities. 

In 2022, I was a finalist for the Retail Drinks Australia’s Young Liquor Retailer of the Year Award category, and our Dan Murphy’s Community Squad was a finalist in Endeavour Group’s annual Imprint Awards for the Responsibility and Community Champion of the Year category. Then the following year in 2023, I was lucky enough to be named a finalist again for the Young Liquor Retailer of the Year and ended up being named the winner. 

The real highlight of this is that I get to sit on the Retail Drinks Board until November 2024 as an observer. So far, this has provided me with a deeper understanding of the issues facing the industry and how Retail Drinks, the voice of the liquor industry, aims to advocate and represent the best interests of Australia’s packaged retail liquor sector in respect to these challenges. Further to this, in 2024, I landed myself a permanent gig in the People Advisory Team with Endeavour Group, which I have been working towards for some time. 

NLN: Hospitality and liquor are known to be fairly male-dominated – what are some of the common challenges that you think women face in these industries?

TS: Despite making up a significant portion of the workforce in the sector, women are still underrepresented in leadership roles across the entire industry. I am proud to work in an organisation like Endeavour that is actively changing the narrative, and we are close to gender equality goals in the leadership space.

More than ever, I see our industry evolving in ways that are empowering women. However, statistics and lived experience tells us that women are still disproportionately subjected to discrimination and harassment, as well as being underestimated and not taken seriously in leadership roles. While it can be difficult, we all need to be committed to breaking through these barriers and resetting what never should have been acceptable in the first place. 

NLN: Do you think there are issues with gender gaps in hospitality and liquor, whether that be pay gaps, ratio gaps, gaps in opportunity, etc? Have you personally experienced these?

TS: The industry is continuing to make leaps and bounds to create a more equitable workforce. While there are still improvements to be made, women are continuing to show up and be their best selves. There are also fantastic initiatives, which showcase the collaboration and empowerment of women across not just our brand but with other suppliers. 

Take for example, the Dan Murphy’s x Brown Brothers ‘Women in Wine’ initiative, which sees female wine experts and retailers joining forces with Brown Brothers’ esteemed winemakers Katherine Brown and Cate Looney to show the end-to-end process of harvesting a vintage. 

Initiatives like this not only underscore the importance of women’s roles in a traditionally male-dominated industry but also highlights the power of collaboration in creating wines that reflect a shared passion, skill, and dedication to the craft.

I have also been lucky enough to have had some really amazing and strong female leaders who have always advocated for women and to create a gender equitable workforce.  

NLN: What are some positive ways that you think women can overcome these challenges, and ways that we as an industry can tackle these types of challenges?

TS: I have never limited myself by thinking ‘I can’t’ due to my gender and I would challenge all people to do the same. It isn’t easy. I regularly battle with imposter syndrome, however, I would encourage women to surround themselves with strong female leaders and allies who will help to support and uplift them. The first step to overcoming these challenges is to find your voice, then learn how to use it to make a positive impact. 

NLN: If we take a step back and think about women in general who are entering the industry and want to further their careers – from your point of view, what advice would you have for them about doing that and getting into the kind of space you’re in now?

TS: The best single piece of advice I can give is to get yourself a mentor who will challenge your way of thinking and the way that you see the world, even if that makes you uncomfortable. Having a great mentor will not only help you to navigate challenges and be a great sounding board for when you need to sense check, but they will help you with your personal and professional growth by providing you with honest feedback.  

NLN: The theme for this year’s IWD is Inspire Inclusion – what does this mean to you?

TS: To me this means championing individuality. It calls for empowering all individuals and serves as a reminder to celebrate and support the unique perspectives and contributions of every individual, regardless of gender, race or background. It means actively fostering a more inclusive and understanding world for all.

NLN: What do you think we can do as an industry to value and encourage women’s inclusion?

TS: Firstly, every individual has a role to play in this cultural shift. I think more than ever our industry is making a conscious effort to change the mindset and move towards gender equality and this should be acknowledged and celebrated. While I think that diversity and inclusion initiatives have a very important role to play, I believe the real challenge is getting to a place where this occurs organically, without the need for quotas or targets. I don’t want to be in a position where I am questioning if I was provided with an opportunity on the basis that I am a woman and not my own merit. These changes will take time, but with continual awareness and with people who have real influence in the industry standing up and using their voice, I have no doubt that we will get there. 

Stay tuned for more perspectives and experiences from women in the industry to be published in the coming weeks.

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