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International Women’s Day: How the drinks industry is supporting women in 2020

With International Women’s Day right around the corner, brands are racing to launch initiatives that empower women in the workplace.

In recent years, the day, which has been celebrated for well over a century, became an excuse for businesses to offer promotions and boost their sales, while winning over consumers. Brewdog faced heavy backlash after launching an ironic “Punk for Girls” IPA in 2018 and offering discounts at its on-trade sites, despite also donating proceeds of the sales to support women in STEM research.

It’s no longer enough to offer women a discount on drinks at the bar or a one-off product launch. A recent survey of female consumers carried out by Global Data found that far more want to see retailers donating a portion of their sales to charity and hiring women in top roles than simply tacking on a seasonal discount.

Emily Stella, retail analyst at GlobalData, said: “According to the research by GlobalData, consumers are not taking notice of retailer activity – and that is not because they’d rather retailers didn’t do anything at all (a sizeable 71.9% of females believe they should). Namely, female consumers would like to see retailers give a portion of their sales to charity or highlight the roles of women in their brand.

“For the 28.1% of females who would rather retailers did nothing, the leading reason was that they’d prefer not to see the day become a commercial event.”

Each year, we are inundated with press releases that feature discounts on dinners. While there can be a place for promotional activities such as these, we were more excited by the companies paying it forward, offering mentoring schemes and giving women the tools to go further in their careers.

We’ve looked at some of the initiatives that have recently launched that are helping women to make the most of their roles in the drinks industry, from networking events that create a safe space to discuss challenges and failed projects, to scholarship programmes to help more women break into notoriously male-dominated roles.

Click through to see what bar owners, brand founders and marketers are doing to support each other in the drinks industry this year.

The mixer makers helping bartenders build skills


Double Dutch, founded by Dutch twins Raissa and Joyce de Haas´ in 2015, has set up a scholarship and mentoring programme to help “support, train and empower aspiring female mixologists.”

The initiative was announced at an all-female speaking panel and brunch on Monday (2 March) in collaboration with Percy & Founders in Fitzrovia.

Hopeful students can apply to the programme online at from 8 March until the end of April.

With the theme “Breaking Barriers: How to Thrive as a Woman in Hospitality,” the event brought together women working in all sectors of hospitality to share their experiences of working in the industry.

Jacqui McMillan, general manager of Novotel Canary Wharf and Bokan, Agnieszka Josko, food and drinks manager Flemings Mayfair, Anna Sebastian, Bar manager at Artesian, Emma Rice, head winemaker at UK fizz producer Hattingley Valley, La Maison Wellness founder Camille Vidal, and Hannah Sharman-Cox and Siobhan Payne, co-founders of Drink Up London, all took part.

The historic US brewery encouraging women to join the world of beer

Sixth-generation family members Jen, Wendy, Debbie and Sheryl Yuengling work alongside their father, Richard, at the historic brewer. (Photo: Yeungling)

According to the Brewer’s Association, less than 8% of all reporting breweries have a female brewer, and the Women in Brewing Scholarship Program is hoping to make strides in this gender-inclusive movement.

America’s oldest brewery, Yuengling, has launched a spring scholarship which “aims to advance the careers of female brewers through education.”

Yuengling and the Pink Boots Society, a non-profit organisation which supports women in beer, launch the Yuengling Women in Brewing Scholarship Program last year. They are offering two more scholarships to women in the industry who are interested in developing their leadership skills and expanding their technical knowledge. Beer professionals can apply for up to $12,500 in scholarship funds to enrol in brewing courses at Cornell University, Cincinnati State, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, and the Siebel Institute of Technology.

The spring application period for the Yuengling Women in Brewing Scholarship will close on March 31, 2020. To find out more, click here.

The wine giant celebrating female leadership

another big name in the US funding drinks education is E.& J. Gallo Winery, which launched Women Behind the Wine in partnership with Women of the Vine & Spirits, a global network designed to provide information, seminars, panels and contacts for women across the wine and spirits industries.

Women behind the Wine is a multi-faceted campaign that provides support such as funding around $100,000 in scholarships, and also celebrates female leadership and generating community involvement by highlighting some of the influential women working at the firm.

The marketers helping women to exchange ideas


(Photo: Steven Kyle)

Wonderworks, a drinks marketing firm based in London, launched a panel series for women working in the drinks industry last year to coincide with International Women’s Day.

Called WonderNETwork, the events feature prominent entrepreneurs and industry insiders, and cover a wide range of topics from CBD drinks, to working in whisky, to striking out on your own.

The latest panel discussion took place in Glasgow on 5 March at Edrington Beam Suntory’s head offices, celebrating and recognise the women making a big impact in the whisky industry today.

Wonderworks’ Lucy Hamer-Hodges told db she set up the WonderNETwork after she was given a brief to raise the company’s profile with drinks brands, but also create something meaningful beyond promoting their own business.

“Quite often you go to a panel discussion in the drinks industry and there’s some sort of agenda”, she said.

By inviting women to speak from smaller businesses alongside bigger players, Hamer-Hodges said her panels are a “neutral place” for people in the industry to exchange ideas, talk shop, and make contacts for future projects.

“Wanted to something that added a bit more value,” she said, “so I thought about who we are and what we do. We’re small and independent, and a lot of our clients are female.” So far the talks have welcomed speakers such as Hannah Sharman-Cox, founder and MD of events group DrinkUp. London, and Claire Warner, who left her role as brand ambassador at Belvedere vodka to join the team at non-alcoholic ‘spirit’ label Seedlip, and launched her own brand, Æcorn Aperitifs, last year.

“We wanted to make sure they were designed for people in the drinks industry – so attendees could be inspired by their peers and make new connections to benefit them later.”

Hamer-Hodges said Wonderworks has two more events planned this year that will tackle the big trends such as brand value and environmental issues. The next talk, which will address sustainability in drinks packaging, will feature none other than Sandrine Ricard, the head of sustainability at Chivas Brothers.

The wine bar putting women front and centre

Lady of the Grapes, a wine bar, restaurant and shop which opened two years ago, will showcases wines made predominately by female winemakers. Focusing on organic, biodynamic and natural wines, more than half the list features wines made by female winemakers.

Owner Carole Bryon, who hails from Paris, believes women are still hugely under represented in the wine industry. She opened the bar after a successful crowdfunding campaign, and Lady of the Grapes has since gone on to become a hub for women in the wine scene both in London and beyond. The bar regularly hosts seminars with women winemakers around the world who share their own stories and how they started their own business, and this weekend, it will even rally the troops to provide relief for those wine professionals who had already travelled to London for the now-cancelled RAW Wine fair.

On Sunday, Lady of the grapes will invite guests to “celebrate Women’s day with wine from our favourite female winemakers by the glass. All the wines will be served with a complementary snack from our kitchen made to be paired with each of the wines.”


The brewers creating a positive space in beer

Mothership, an all-female brewery in south London which champions women working in the notoriously male-dominated “craft” scene, was founded by Jane Frances LeBlond. Her background is actually in winemaking, having done a stint at English winery Chapel Down, but she moved to brewing after falling in love with the creativity it offered.

“When babies put in an appearance, brewing became an important and empowering way to sustain her own identity as she navigated the landscape of raising children,” Mothership’s head of sales, Zoe Adelman, tells db.

Mothership began as “an idea formed in the early hours of mornings, during long walks pushing a buggy round the park, snatching moments while babies sleep.”

Last year the brewery released a watermelon gose, the proceeds of which all went to a women’s charity.

Now twice a year, the brewer releases a special-edition beer where the proceeds go to causes such as Refugee4Women. Zoe told db the next charity partner will have a sustainable focus.

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