The Cocktail Lovers Magazine Issue 48

ISSUE 48

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Introducing World Class Women+ on International Women’s Day

ByThe Cocktail Lovers

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In partnership with World Class
World Class GB 2024 competitors. Top row from left: Carrie Hooters, Mandy Genewein, Kim Toft, Hong Po Wong; Middle row from left: Katie Rouse, Courtney Francis, Noa Wang, Claudia Denis; Bottom row from left: Eve Lucia Morley, Jade Claudia, Benedetta Paris, Jeanne Mathieu, Amber Lloyd

Since its launch in 2009, World Class has always been so much more than a straightforward cocktail competition. Sure, each year it culminates in a global final, complete with a confetti cannonball showering the overall winner in dramatic gold flecks. But it’s what happens before and after the global final that the nuts and bolts of the programme is really about. Which is showcasing, training and inspiring bartenders from all around the world – from fancy five-star establishments through to funky independents and everything in between. But there is another integral part of the programme, one which everyone involved prides themselves on: support. Whatever and wherever it’s needed.

World Class Women+ is a case in point. Set up by the World Class GB team, this so-new-that-it-hasn’t-launched-yet initiative is very much driven by a desire to engage, empower and nurture women and those who identify as women, whether trans, femmes, gender-fluid or other (hence the ‘+’ ) working in the bar community. 

Meeting of minds

Why single out women you may ask? Doesn’t everyone need support? The cynically minded may even dismiss it as a box ticking exercise – and to some extent, it is. But this is box ticking done right: providing a platform to ensure that under represented communities get the advice, assistance and space they need to advance in their chosen careers.

Let’s face it, in an ideal world there wouldn’t be a need for World Class Women+. However, as anyone working in bars knows, there are still issues holding women back, a) from entering the profession and b) propelling themselves forward once in it. Particularly when it comes to entering competitions like World Class or self-nominating for the growing number of awards.

The big question is why, and what’s needed to address the concerns? Those were exactly the points on the agenda at the initial round table discussion hosted by Claire Warner, Head of Advocacy, Diageo GB. “How can we improve gender equity through World Class?” she asked. “How can we get more women involved in the competition? But more broadly, what can we be doing as a community to raise women up in the industry? Because it’s a global issue.” 

A select panel of movers and shakers in the industry, including Hannah Sharman-Cox and Siobhan Payne, joint founders of The Pinnacle Guide, London Cocktail Week and HANDS London, and Anna Sebastian, founder of Celebrate Her were invited to share their thoughts on this, together with the key points they believe need to be addressed in order for women+ to feel seen and heard. 

Clockwise from top left: Hannah Sharman Cox; Claire Warner; Anna Sebastian; Chris Tanner and Martin Simpson; the group deep in talk

Charlotte Barker, Diageo Malts Ambassador; Jo Last, The Singleton and World Class Ambassador and Pippa Guy, Tanqueray, No. Tanqueray and World Class Brand Ambassador are also very much part of the programme. “I’m so driven by it because this is a narrative that has always been a part of my professional career,” Pippa says. “Running in parallel with any of my achievements has always been the discussion of my gender. We see it in the wider world as well,” she continues. “Best Female Chef or Best Female Artist in other industry awards, and whilst I believe currently, we still need to be promoting women+ individually to empower them in the industry, I’d love to get to a point where gender isn’t tied to everyone’s individual narrative.”

That’s the end goal. And World Class Women+ very much wants to be at the forefront in getting there. Which is where the round table came in. “World Class Women+ has brought together some of the top people within hospitality to build the foundations of a community initiative: to listen and understand what is needed for our industry to grow, and to provide tangible assets so that it can thrive,” Charlotte added.

From her findings working across the growing, very active Celebrate Her platform, Anna was one of the first to air her thoughts on why the community might be hesitant in putting themselves forward for competitions like World Class or proposing themselves for awards: “I think a lot of the time, people just don’t know how to,” she suggested. “I asked one of our community this same question recently and she said that someone had approached her about nominating herself for an award and she admitted that she didn’t know how to apply – she didn’t have a bio. I think it would be incredibly valuable to create a resource where people can click on a link and download templates for invoices, bios, or how to do an expense report for example. Simple things but really valuable.”

Worth noting, this wasn’t a female-only affair. Adding their voices and experience to the discussion were Liam Davy, Head of Bars, Hawksmoor Group, along with Chris Tanner and Martyn ‘Simo’ Simpson from Dram Bar. As with all upcoming events and activities, men are very much welcome to listen, learn and share their thoughts on shaping World Class Women+ with the aim of building a better future for the entire industry.

Anna sharing her thoughts with the panel

On the agenda, everything from well-being and mental health support to skill development and inclusive recruitment. A big one that came up was creating safer work spaces and supporting staff getting home. “We did a survey on this two years ago at Celebrate Her,” Anna added. “Somewhere like 86% of the women who responded said they would work late at night if they thought they could get home safely.” Confidence building also featured highly in the conversation – not just in the bar but as a key factor holding women+ from entering competitions.

Referring to the latter point, Simo suggested targeting bar owners: “Perhaps it would work better if bars were approached rather than individuals?” he added. “Putting the onus on bar managers/owners to encourage women in their teams to enter the competitions could work rather well. They could also follow up to see how they’re getting on.” From their extensive work setting up The Pinnacle Guide Hannah and Siobhan had a number of ideas, with Hannah offering: “I would love for us as a team and community to be out there advocating for people in under represented areas – people who might not feel like they are ready to enter but we would nominate them. We’re doing the same piece of work on The Pinnacle Guide at the moment because the whole point is, not to just re-award people who are already award-winning, right? If we went into a bar saying, ‘I think you’re doing amazing work, here’s an invitation to join us at World Class,’ that would do wonders.”

Snapshots from the inspiring discussions; bottom right: Siobhan Payne and Liam Davy; also present Pippa Guy, Charlotte Barker, Kirsty Thomson and Cara Watson

The all-important matter of safety was more contentious. “We have over 1,200 employees across three countries and six cities,” Liam said, referring to the Hawksmoor Group. “We have a lot of qualitative feedback, information from people as well as quantitative information about the amount of people from different genders who work for us and it just allows us a bit more power to make decisions. A lot of the responses around how we treat people are pretty favourable. Things like, do you feel like this is a good company to work for? Do you feel like you’re valued? Do you feel like your voice is heard? All score above 90%. But then questions like, have you been a victim of customer harassment are really, really high. And the reason behind customer harassment is predominantly gender.” These are just a few of the points raised at the first round table. And the conversation, like the programme itself, is set to continue.

“World Class Women+ is at its inception. Our aim is to begin a longer term initiative that will look to address some of the challenges that are faced by women+ in our industry that were raised in our listening and workshop sessions,” Claire said, wrapping up the engaging, passionate and insightful conversation. “However, this also needs to be part of a wider industry culture change to ensure that not only are these issues addressed, but that there is great coordination and collaboration across multiple channels to address the wider diversity and inclusion agendas. The facts are clear, greater diversity and inclusion is not only good for us all, but also good for society and businesses. We must act together to create a more equitable industry, for us all.”

“The World Class Women+ will continue its outreach initiatives, and we will action as many of the suggestions raised as possible, while also exploring other ways to improve access and greater visibility for those who are currently under-represented.”

What’s in store:

• Virtual and in-person events 
• Networking opportunities 
• Training sessions for companies investing in young talent.
• Discussions and workshops on inclusivity to shift cultural norms.
• A platform to share success stories of women+ in the industry.
• Resources that acknowledge both achievements and challenges faced by Women+.
• Activities that promote inclusivity and gender equality throughout the year.
• Sharing of campaign stories.
• showcasing women+ in the industry through images and video content.
• Regular follow-ups on action items

To find out more and to register interest for upcoming events, visit the World Class Women+ website here.

Photography: Roman Shabodalov

The Cocktail Lovers

The Cocktail Lovers

The Cocktail Lovers are Mr G and Ms S, a man and a woman who share a passion for cocktails. (We also happen to be married, so we’re cocktail lovers in more ways than one…)

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The Cocktail Lovers Magazine Issue 48
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