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.

This year, in celebration of International Women’s Day, National Liquor News spoke to a number of influential women in the liquor industry about their career defining moments, experiences as women, and the ways in which we can work together as an industry to overcome challenges of gender bias.

Today, Jaz Wearin, Co-Founder of Modus Operandi Brewing and Founder of NORT Brewing, shares her story.

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

JW: Along with my husband, I founded Modus Brewing 10 years ago and have since launched NORT non-alcoholic beer and our Mexican range of beverages. Growing up in the Riverina on a 11,000 acre wheat and sheep farm, beer was always an important refreshment post mustering, shearing, harvesting, etc, and brought everyone together. I am not surprised I found myself making beer as an adult.

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

JW: I feel like I have jampacked a lot into the last decade and there have been so many highlights (along with challenges). The top three would be picking up champion Aus craft beer and three other major awards three months after we opened with less than $10 in the account, launching NORT in 2020 after I gave birth to my son (I was craving beer throughout my pregnancy and decided to do something about it), and building from the ground up our state of the art brewery in Merewether, Newcastle in 2021 and picking up an Australian architectural award along the way. 

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?

JW: The industry can be very much not what you know but who you know, and there are instances where this is quite a male-dominated sphere and can be confronting. It has taken me some time to develop my relationships and I haven’t always felt like I have had a seat at the table.

I also believe being a mother in the modern day environment, in any sector, is still really challenging. It’s not possible to do everything, and you end up doing everything not at your best. I would love to see a world where the government works with business owners to come up with a more fulsome offer for working mums, so they do not fall behind in their career, salary and super contributions. 

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?

JW: Through my lens, as an employer, the biggest issue we have is the ratio gap, particularly in sales and brewing. This is by no way intentional, but the truth of the matter is that the brewing industry attracts a lot more males than females. I would love to have more females apply for these roles, because we certainly don’t have this issue in the hospitality side of our business. 

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?

JW: I think having influential women in senior positions, particularly in manufacturing and sales, featured in more media (outside of IWD), as keynote speakers etc would help shine a light on the career opportunities available and the joys that do come with this industry. I always remember when I first started out, hearing Peta Fielding from Burleigh Brewing as a keynote speaker and it was one of those moments that made me realise that women have a very important place in the industry. 

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?

JW: If there is a hunger to develop your skills, and you have a clear plan of where you want to head, please share this with your employer/manager. If they can’t make the time, then you are not in the right place. I always have an open door policy when it comes to people’s aspirations in the business and if I can find a way to develop those dreams, I do. But unless they are communicated it’s very hard to read minds.

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

JW: Inclusion is a key responsibility to drive from the top down into a business. I think this has been a lot easier with a husband-and-wife Founder model such as ours, but to inspire inclusion is going above and beyond. Living and breathing this through your company ethos, not just on IWD.

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