International Women’s Day (IWD), a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, while also marking a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

Celebrated since 1911, the theme for this year’s IWD is ‘Break The Bias’. According to the official IWD website, this theme is explained as follows: “Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough. Action is needed to level the playing field.”

In recognition of the importance of IWD and this year’s theme, The Shout gathered the insights of some inspirational women across several parts of Australia’s liquor industry, to find out what Break The Bias means to them, and what conversations they hope this theme will prompt in the industry.

Danielle Allen, Co-founder, Two Birds Brewing

Allen said a lot of the challenges that women face in the drinks industry come down to preconceived ideas and notions of what is possible for them. This means that bias drives a lot of the issues that women face and it will take lots of simultaneous things to address it, for example, like Two Birds’ many partnerships, events and IWD special release beer, Warrior Woman.

“There’s a couple of really leading women who have done such great work to break some of those biases down… There’s a small pocket of the industry that do really well at it, but it’s about spreading the word into more mainstream areas around Australia,” Allen said. 

“I’m not sure if there is one big solution or remedy, I think it’s a whole lot of small efforts. It starts with every community and everybody being responsible and accountable for it.”

Sarah Nichols, Marketing Director ANZ, Bacardi-Martini Australia

Nichols said Break The Bias means ensuring everyone is taught about what both conscious and unconscious bias are, as some of the biggest issues are often assumptions that are made about women, their goals and their ambitions, especially when it comes to expectations held around raising a family versus holding a leadership role at work. When adding in differences in pay and benefits, Nichols said the most challenging thing about navigating this type of bias is that people are often unaware they are being biased. 

“When looking at ways to ‘break the bias’, my advice would be to educate and network. Unconscious bias is not simply a gender issue but something that needs to be addressed throughout organisations, through training and education addressing the effects of bias and how to uncover it,” Nichols said. 

“In my opinion, transparent communication and promoting a culture of meritocracy are key. Whilst this can be easier said than done, setting an expectation within your organisation of your career goals and ambitions, whilst facilitating open discussion about bias and supporting all voices at all levels are ways of ensuring people are heard and understood, limiting the opportunity for bias. Secondly, creating networks both inside and outside of the organisation of people that encourage you and advocate for you, will be pivotal in your development and support your success throughout your career.” 

Alissa Gabriel, Bars Manager, Hinchcliff House

For Gabriel, a lot of great things are already happening in the fight for gender equality both within and outside the industry, and the main call to action for this IWD is to keep up that fight. 

“I think all of the right conversations are happening, and I think it’s going to be a fight to the end. It’s the same with things like climate change – it’s just about constantly having the conversation over and over again, and where there are issues, bring it up straight away,” Gabriel said.

Alli Macdonald, Lead Brewer, Malt Shovel

Macdonald believes Break The Bias first asks us all to acknowledge that a bias still exists – we need to stop and think about what our own biases are, and recognise that inequality still exists. Conversations need to discuss the many disadvantages women still face in the workforce.

“If you think that bias doesn’t exist in your workplace you need to be questioning yourself – you need to be asking questions about the gender pay gap, questions about gender balance, questions about safe work environments and questions about women in leadership (a mere six per cent of ASX300 companies have female CEOs),” Macdonald said.

“Bias isn’t just putting women at a disadvantage but it can be career stopping. We need to consider not just how we encourage women to join our industries but how we ensure that they stay in our industries and thrive. I want people to get uncomfortable because these conversations about inequality are uncomfortable. And no matter what the theme of International Women’s Day we need to be continuing these conversations long after this single day.”

Teresa Heuzenroeder, Senior Winemaker, Petaluma and Croser 

Thinking about IWD, Heuzenroeder recalls a moment when she first joined the wine industry, and felt she had to prove herself as a female in a male dominated industry. A pivotal moment was sitting in a meeting and realising she was the only woman in the room, although she has never had that thought again, even though there must have been many more times it has happened again (albeit less often).

“Since then, I have seen a lot of change in the industry, moving in a positive direction with increasing diversity. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been surrounded by many amazing women, both personally and professionally, who have inspired and supported me. I’m a big believer in the adage ‘be the change you want to happen’. If you want things to change, you need to be part of making it happen and by doing so it helps pave the way for others to follow,” Heuzenroeder said. 

“I guess choosing to ignore that thought all those years ago and not letting that stop me from achieve my goals and ambitions has been my way of helping to ‘Break The Bias’. Things are changing and if we continue to keep pushing through and strive for what we want to achieve, we will make a difference.” 

Ellen Weigall, Founder, BABY Pink Gin

While this piece is about the liquor industry, Weigall said IWD is a chance also for the industry to recognise and give greater respect to female consumers. She believes that too often there is a mindset that embracing femininity is seen as ‘below’ masculinity, because of assumptions made about the quality and expectations of different consumer groups. 

Weigall said there is a mindset that: “We can produce something that is masculine and women will drink it anyway. But if we produce something that’s feminine, men won’t drink it, it’s too scary. I think what the industry needs to do is embrace femininity.”

Katherine Brown, Portfolio Manager – Premium Wines, Brown Family Wine Group

No matter what the year or theme, Brown said the importance of IWD cannot be understated.

“International Women’s Day is an important time to reflect on the progress that have been made over the past decades on the steps towards equality in the workplace and how this has led to many achievements that have been made by women over that time,” she said.

“The key is that we can not stop where we have got to, and we need to continue the conversations of how we can further an equal role for all in the wine and hospitality industries to ensure that we continue to break the barriers of the past.”

Ciara Doran, Co-owner, Frank Mac’s and The Doss House

Doran said the key to Breaking The Bias is awareness and education, which starts with calling out problematic behaviour as it arises.

“Self-awareness is the first thing that comes to mind for me, and it starts with that. Together we can all Break The Bias, but you have to first be aware of your own bias, and how you act out in the world. I think it also comes down to females too – I think it’s our responsibility to be able to speak up and confidently say to someone ‘that made me feel uncomfortable’,” Doran said.

“I think both men and women need to understand there is still a lot of inequality out there in the industry.”

Tiffany Waldron, President, Pink Boots Society Australia, and Head of Communications and Marketing, Independent Brewers Association

Since last IWD, Waldron has witnessed a shift in the beer industry, sparked by craft beer’s #metoo moment, Brienne Allan and the platform that the likes of Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins have used to gracefully educate and advocate. 

“For the first time in Australia, it felt like we were able to start courageous conversations about our experiences as women in a male dominated industry – and to call out those who may have propagated or incubated bad situations,” Waldron said.

“Breaking The Bias feels like a call to action – for both those in the industry and those who support the industry. Through Beer Agents For Change, we’ve benchmarked the industry’s diversity and inclusion (unsurprisingly the statistics weren’t a positive on the industry) and will be pushing for initiatives to promote diversity throughout the industry as well as creating a safer environment for those working in beer and those who drink beer.

“This is also a year to continue the conversation around leadership in the drinks industries – the decision makers are still largely (white, straight) men and I believe a change in this will affect the diversity all the way down to those who enjoy good drinks.”

Leonie Stanborough, Health Safety & Quality Compliance Manager, Duxton Vineyards

For Stanborough, this year’s IWD theme was amplified after listening to a podcast called Influence and Impact for Female Leaders. One idea which stood out from that podcast to Stanborough was one that women are naturally more ‘empathic’ and seen as ‘fixers’ – instinctive attributes that are becoming more recognised as strengths rather than weaknesses in our industry.

“More women in our industry are doing what traditionally was a man’s job, especially in the cellar operations space and key management roles. Initially, women weren’t considered strong or robust enough. Now, women are recognised, supported and encouraged positively,” Stanborough said. 

“Education, mentoring and pathway programs can influence awareness in our industry and highlight the variety of career opportunities. However, to make an impact, having access to leadership and management programs can help women elevate their confidence and knowledge, and provide them with tools to focus on those higher management positions.  Finally, I also believe a rostered approach to some tasks – instead of assuming it’s a man’s or women’s task – would give women the opportunity to further develop skills, in turn bridging that gap with equality and breaking the bias within our industry as a whole.” 

Sandy Mayo, Chief Marketing Officer at Accolade Wines

Early in Mayo’s professional journey, she said she spent a lot of time trying to fit into a male dominated world. She said she had no female role models, although some excellent male mentors, and didn’t know what equitable and inclusive should look like.

“I bowed to traditional thinking and was held back by my own self-limiting beliefs, including imposter syndrome (something I still need to work on). Understanding this now, rather than regretting it, I want to help the women around me feel valued, supported and celebrated. Through my career, I have had some wonderful female colleagues and friends, who have been towers of strength, energy-givers and inspirers. I learnt so much from them and I hope I can do the same for others. I would encourage all women to look for female role models and always be an ally for other women,” Mayo said. 

“My current employer, Accolade Wines, is a firm believer and supporter of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We undertake training programs in this space and always strive to create a safe and supportive environment for our teams. It’s always encouraged that everyone asks for support when they need it and take the time to listen to others. Break the cycle of bias and discrimination by seeking different perspectives and being aware of you own biases – I think this message is really important.” 

There is no shortage of incredible and insightful women in Australia’s liquor industry – this is just a small taste of the talented females driving this industry. We hope that this will prompt further conversations across the country in recognition of IWD and Break The Bias, to contribute to lasting change.

Want more great content, information and resources to keep these conversations going? Keep up to date with incredible industry organisations like:

Stay tuned on The Shout later this week as well, for the launch of a series intended to keep these conversations front of mind all year round.

Brydie Allen

Brydie Allen is the Editor of National Liquor News. She has been with Food and Beverage Media since 2019, when she joined the company as a journalist across National Liquor News, Bars & Clubs, The...

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