Can hospitality be more welcoming to women?

28 November 2022

Barely a quarter of women stay active in hospitality after the age of 30. That’s why Anna Sebastian and her non-profit organisation Celebrate Her is working harder than ever with venues and brands to elevate female talent in the industry. The hospitality consultant and former bar manager at Artesian at The Langham explains how the industry can be more accommodating.

What best sums up the gender equality crisis in the industry?
"I only know one girl who continued bartending when she was pregnant, and she was from Australia. One, out of my whole career."

"Yep. In the UK there was a big report by PWC, that under the age of 30, the industry's made up of 67.7% women and it drops down then to 25.5%. So it's huge.

And yes, there may be factors like women go and have birth and men can't do that at the moment. It's more common for women to go and raise a child, but the industry is not sustainable for women to come back.
There are lots of single parents. There are lots of men raising children. Men only get two weeks paternity leave in the UK. Why can't the industry provide this for men and women as well? It's just like, how can this industry change to accommodate more and more people?"

What are some of the other issues at stake?
"It's the long hours, it's getting home safely at night. Why can't workplaces write into their business plan that they will pay for a taxi every single night for those finishing between those hours, in exactly the same you budget to buy stock to put behind a bar? Why is this really different?
There is still that disparity between men and women in the industry, it is very white. It's very male-dominated. This industry's based a lot on traditions, but we need to break through those traditions and create new ones."

Is hospitality any different to other sectors?

"I think a lot of people don't take hospitality seriously as an industry. It's a huge industry. It's billions and billions of pounds. The workforce is huge. Hospitality is linked in with everybody's lives, but it's just not taken seriously.
My original career was in the military. I know exactly how women weren't allowed on the front line. I had to fight for my place at Sandhurst. It was constant, that's changing. This is changing, but nothing will change if nobody does anything about it."

And now Celebrate Her is doing something about it. How did it come about?

"It was very much a little bit on the whim to be honest. We were hosting a lot of bar takeovers in London bars, inviting guests from around the world to come over. And we just said, well, why don't we just invite lots of great women from great bars around the world and host them and do one-night big takeover!"

How did industry respond?
"We got a huge response. It was amazing. We got so much response. There's so much interest from brands going, what can we do to support? We've had interest from places that wanted to donate, like, a pound from every cocktail they sell to go towards this. We also worked with 50 Best Bars to create a program called 50 as a new 50, which was their drive to have a more balanced and equal voting panel."

What are some easy ways venues can work to elevate women?
"I think they need to go back to basics, to educate. You have training sessions on how to clear a table or make a drink or whatever, but whatever about the training sessions to actually really make them understand what male privilege looks like.

There's a very cool campaign that a bar in New York did. I think the gender pay gap in New York is like 17% or something. On the bill, if a man asked for the bill, they put on an additional 17%.
Men have the power to break that glass ceiling by giving women that seat at the table, by giving them that promotion, by giving them that support. It can be really, really powerful. It's not about bashing men, it’s about how can we all work together."

Where to next for Celebrate Her?
"The potential for it, I think, is huge. The aim, once we are able to raise enough funding is to give out financial grants to women in the industry. Whether it's a finance course, whether it's graphic design, whatever it is, we just want to be able to get these women to have the knowledge, have the education on their CV to be like, this is what I need to get into this position.
Something that very much started off as an event for fun has grown into something more."

Last question, what's your drink of choice?

"Oh, I mean, I drink three things mainly: champagne, super dry vodka martinis with no garnish, or negroni."

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