On International Women’s Day every year, the voices and stories of women across the world are celebrated, as we address the issues that cause gender inequality and diversity. But despite these issues remaining, such voices and stories take a backseat once the day is done.

We think it’s worth doing the opposite and actively challenging the issues that create these gaps in our industry. So, we’ve launched this weekly series, Wednesday Women, where we’ll profile the stories of the inspiring women in this great and wide industry.

Today we speak with Jemma Blanch, Marketing Director at Four Corners (which includes Four Pillars and Vanguard’s portfolio). Success looks different to everybody, but for Blanch, becoming Four Pillars’ first Marketing Director was a real career highlight, especially given that leadership roles are often dominated by men.

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

JB: I started in PR at Liquid Ideas with Stu Gregor. Eight years there well and truly got me to fall in love with booze PR and marketing, hospitality and the people in the industry. Since then, my career has taken me to Boston and Hong Kong, to New York, to cricket matches, the Ballet, Melbourne Cup race days, so many brewery tours, what feels like hundreds of gin tastings, and of course, still my favourite of all trips I could take, to Healesville in Victoria.

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

JB: In terms of highlights, I’d probably have to say becoming Four Pillars’ first Marketing Director. I absolutely love the company, the brand, the people and in particular the three founders – Stu Gregor Cam Mackenzie and Matt Jones. They are incredible operators and leaders. I also love the marketing ethos at Four Pillars and it was a huge privilege to join the team.

TS: 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?

JB: Firstly, I must point out I have found the craft spirits industry really inclusive and being in marketing I’ve generally been surrounded by a lot of intelligent and vibrant women. However, you can’t escape the challenges that come when starting a family. Being pregnant and having young kids is tough when you’re expected to be out at night, keeping up with the new venues and trends and everyone around you is drinking. It does play on your mind a bit.

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

JB: From the supplier side I think there are gender issues at a leadership level. Traditionally we have seen leaderships roles dominated by men and that can dictate culture through an entire business. I think it is shifting however and most companies in my experience are aware of the need for it to evolve.

TS: 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?

My advice is probably applicable to any industry – find leadership and mentorship that inspires you. Whether that be young, old, male or female. Find leadership and culture that makes you comfortable to speak up, makes you feel valued and comfortable to take risks in your own career. And say yes to absolutely everything. You learn so much about this industry by doing and being out there, chatting, tasting, listening.

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

JB: To me this is collective responsibility. Inclusion isn’t something that will be given to us, it is something we can give to others.

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

JB: 2023 really felt like the year of some pretty epic women. Between the Matildas, Taylor Swift and Barbie I think the economic and cultural influence of women is flowing through society. I would like to think it is also giving women confidence to value themselves. That absolutely has to happen before other people will value them and I am hopeful that is happening in a big way. However, not to be naïve there is work to do and to create cultural change on a mass level I think often you have to swing too far before landing back somewhere in the centre. So, I think initiatives that purposefully lift women up like female-only cocktail comps and purposefully looking at gender splits in leadership do play a role. I hope they won’t be necessary in the long term but positive initiatives in the short.

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