How the drinks industry can #InspireInclusion

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

IWD 2024
IWD 2024

Related tags Events International Women’s Day Drinks

To celebrate International Women's Day 2024 the Morning Advertiser spoke to some of the leading women in the drinks industry to discover how the sector can #InspireInclusion.

Name:​ Laura Willoughby MBE 

Job title:​ Founder 

Place of work:​ Club Soda and trustee of the Drinks Trust and Equal Measures 


As this year’s International Women’s Day theme is #InspireInclusion, what does this mean to you? 

I always have to remind myself that, despite my commitment to equality and inclusion, I still have natural biases.  

Being aware of these allows me to make sure I think through all sorts of decisions, from the drinks we buy (they can’t all be things I like; everyone has different tastes) to how we treat our customers and who we hire.  

Different experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds make our organisation better and are good for business. 

Where do you see the sector as an inclusive workplace for women? 

It’s getting more and more so but there is still work to do.  

The drinks industry is quite blokey and you sometimes need to stand back and look with fresh eyes to see what needs to change to ensure everyone feels included and has the same equality of opportunity. 

This also includes confronting the fact alcohol reduces inhibitions, which means it’s easy to overstep the mark and make someone feel uncomfortable or stray into sexually inappropriate behaviour.  

This issue applies to staff, colleagues and customers but I am confident the industry can work successfully on this; after all, the key skill of hospitality is about making everyone feel welcome.  

What are the main barriers to preventing inclusion? 

Thinking that the new social norms don’t apply to the sector.  

It is great that we continue to progress as a society and strive for equality and better treatment of each other but this is not someone else’s job or for others to do.  

It is our responsibility, and senior folk in this sector need to lead by example and through positive action.  

What more can be done to improve? 

There is still a need for unrepresented groups, women, people of colour, neurodiverse and queer people, to see this as an industry for them.  

Many other sectors, from engineering to the law sector, have shown that taking action works.  

It is a shame to think there are thousands of kind and people-centred individuals out there who have never considered hospitality to be an industry for them.  

We need to change perceptions, break down barriers, change the way everything from recruitment to professional development works and ensure good behaviour standards.  

On an individual level, if you see someone who you think has the spark for working in this sector, tell them, use your connections to help them get a job and informally mentor them – it feels great to help someone discover their passion. 

What advice would you give to other women in the industry? 

Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who have been in the sector longer than you or are doing something you would like to do and ask them to go for a coffee and ask for advice and tips. 

Don’t be a bystander. If you see inappropriate behaviour happening, step in. Check everything is OK. You will save everyone the possibility of a life-changing event. 

Name:​ Georgina Young 

Job title:​ Brewing director 

Place of work:​ St Austell Brewery 



As this year’s International Women’s Day theme is #InspireInclusion, what does this mean to you? 

I think it’s about being present and putting your voice out there in your industry.  

Being seen and heard is one of the best ways to fly the flag for women in our space and inspire others to see a route into brewing and the wider sector, challenging that view that it’s an industry for men. 

More and more women are joining the space and doing a really good job within it. The more representation, the more it inspires, the more diverse the sector becomes.  

Where do you see the sector as an inclusive place to work for women? 

Hospitality should be very inclusive, there’s no reasons why women can’t succeed in the sector.  

If you look across our industry there are some amazing women in hospitality – take Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality and Suzanne Baker, who’s been integral to the Stonegate Group having been at the pub company since 2010 and now sits on their board, as examples of women who have excelled.  

The wonderful thing about hospitality is the opportunity to work your way up.  

What are the main barriers to preventing inclusion? 

I’m passionate about breaking down barriers for entry into brewing for everyone.  

That’s why I was part of starting the trailblazer group scheme established in 2019 for the Brewing Apprenticeship programme with University of Nottingham.  

Through this, we’ve taken on nine brewing apprentices over the past three years to provide succession and opportunities to work across brewing and packaging. It’s about identifying those obstacles and working on ideas which will find and bring new talent in. 

How far has the sector come? 

Since starting out in the brewing world in 1999, there are far more women in the industry now, which is brilliant.  

I’ve learnt a lot from women in brewing across the years, from the likes of Emma Gilleland, director of brewing at Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Co; Emma Watts, operations director at Chapel Down; and Moyra Williams, who have long been inspirations.  

Women have a much louder voice and are being braver with it than I ever was, which is really important to see. I had a bit of imposter syndrome until I felt I had the confidence to prove that I could brew.  

What more can be done to improve? 

Visibility of women doing great things in the sector throughout the year, not just on International Women’s Day.  

What advice would you give to other women in the industry? 

Don’t give up – keep on going.  

Name:​ Annabel Smith 

Job title:​ Founder 

Place of work​: BeerBelle and Dea Latis; Head of Training at Cask Marque 



As this year’s International Women’s Day theme is #InspireInclusion, what does this mean to you? 

I’ve always felt it important to create an environment and atmosphere where women feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute, regardless of their background.  

It’s about creating spaces where all people feel welcome and encouraging collaboration and participation from everyone.  

It means actively working to remove barriers, stigmas and bias, nurturing a sense of belonging and ensuring that everyone has a voice. 

Where do you see the sector as an inclusive place to work for women? 

Hospitality offers so many diverse roles in the sector and this is truly an inclusive space from bottle wash to boardroom. There are hundreds of positive female role models in the hospitality sector and it’s seen as a viable and valued profession. 

Beer and brewing much less so, and it could be argued that this is the case across all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines.  

However, while researching the latest Dea Latis report, I found out women account for 46% of all professional science roles in the UK (far higher than engineering or ITC).  

Brewing is a science discipline. However, only 3% of women are in brewing roles in the UK according to the 2023 SIBA Craft Beer Report. It illustrates there isn’t enough inclusivity – or diversity – in brewing. 

What are the main barriers to preventing inclusion? 

That women have to shout that bit louder, work that bit harder and continually prove their beer credentials to be taken seriously.  

It becomes exhausting and frustrating even for the most educated and confident women. We don’t talk about ‘men in beer’, so the moment we stop talking about ‘women in beer’, (as though it’s some kind of niche compartment) will signal inclusivity in the beer sector. 

How far has the sector come? 

Rather than reflect on how far the sector has come retrospectively, we should focus on how much further we need to go.  

What does the sector look like when it embraces inclusivity, diversity and equity? Aim for achieving this goal, so we don’t have to have these discussions in the future. 

What more can be done to improve? 

Make women more visible in the sector – the optics are very antiquated compared to other industries.  

Positive representation in the media, in educational establishments, on social media platforms would all go a long way to break the stigma about women working in the beer industry or indeed choosing beer as an informed drink of choice. 

Education – women are still massively underrepresented in the brewing industry and we need to explore why. Is it because they are not presented with, or excluded from, the opportunities at school or in higher education? 

What advice would you give to other women in the industry? 

Challenge stereotypes whenever you encounter them. This could be in casual conversations, social media interactions, in the workplace or even in media representations. Point out that beer is not limited by gender. Be persistent in your efforts to promote inclusivity and confront bias head on. 

Name: Becky Kean​ 
Job title:​ Founder 
Place of work:​ Nirvana Brewery


As this year’s International Women’s Day theme is #InspireInclusion, what does this mean to you?  

I love this theme because it reminds me of my late mum who was a real trailblazing woman in her industry and ‘inspiring inclusion’ is exactly what she did.  

She really helped elevate other women around her, making them feel seen and supported and gave them confidence to be as ambitious as she was. She taught me those values and I hope to carry them on in my work too.  

Where do you see the sector as an inclusive place to work for women? 

There are sections of the industry that are very inclusive of women and others where there is still some potential for greater inclusivity.   

The low and no sector, for example, is quite inclusive in my experience and I see loads of fantastic female-founded businesses in this sector. The beer and brewing industry at large, however, does tend to be more male-dominated and it is less common to see female brewers or brewery owners. We are certainly growing in number though. 

What are the main barriers to preventing inclusion? 

There is still an outdated idea of beer being a ‘man’s drink’ that prevails among some people, both men and women.  

The growth of craft beer has helped to highlight the artisan element of the drink and has elevated the reputation of beer, showing it can be enjoyed in the same way wine has in the past.  

This has brought new female drinkers into the category who may have previously thought beer wasn’t for them.  

I believe, in a way, alcohol itself can act as a barrier to inclusion too, so the growth of low and no is really important in creating greater inclusivity. 

Including everyone, drinkers and non-drinkers alike, has always been part of our ethos at Nirvana.  

How far has the sector come? 

It has come a long way in recent years.  

The visibility of more women in the industry gives others confidence to be ambitious and act as role models to aspiring young women. I certainly get a lot less funny looks talking about beer than I did a few years ago. It’s great for it to be normalised to be a woman in beer. 

What more can be done to improve? 

Continuing to be open-minded and tolerant of people’s differences. Whether that's differences in the way people tackle their work or approach problem solving, or their work patterns (if they are working around family, say) down to people’s choices about what to drink – alcohol or no alcohol.  

Better outcomes happen when people feel comfortable to be their true selves. 

What advice would you give to other women in the industry? 

Don’t let fear stop you from doing something you want to do.  

Yes, there are things that others can do to make women feel more included but it’s just as important to speak up, be brave and allow yourself to be heard and included – even if it’s just to inspire others to do the same. 

Claudia Carrozzi drinks

Name:​ Claudia Carrozzi  

Job title:​ Guild President of UKBG and Beverage Development Manager at Cunard 

Place of work:​ UKBG & Cunard 

As this year's International Women's Day theme is #InspireInclusion, what does this mean to you?  

This campaign is truly remarkable and worth supporting. Its aim to promote inclusivity is crucial in both our professional and personal lives.  

It inspires me to embrace diversity and respect for each and everyone, irrespective of their gender, race, or ethnicity even further.  

Although the campaign has a primary focus on women, I would personally not limit #InspireInclusion to them but encourage everyone to participate and become advocates of inclusivity.  

By supporting this campaign, we can create a more welcoming and accepting community that values diversity and promotes equality. 

Where do you see the sector as an inclusive place to work for women?​ 

Creating an inclusive workplace for women is crucial for companies to succeed. 

To achieve this, companies should offer flexible work arrangements to create a more inclusive work environment that can help women balance work and personal responsibilities, such as childcare.  

Build a supportive team environment, value employee talent, protect employees from harassment, support their mental health and embrace diversity in talent and culture.  

By fostering a positive workplace culture that values collaboration, creativity, and innovation, companies can create a successful business at any level, corporate, non for profit and independently owned. 

What are the main barriers to preventing inclusion?​ 

There are several factors that contribute to this issue and it is important to understand them in order to address them effectively. Although awareness is growing, there is still a long way to go to ensure that everyone is included and treated fairly at all times. 

Firstly, the hospitality industry is a male-dominated sector and this is deeply ingrained in its culture. Women have historically been underrepresented in this field, and the mentality that it is a ‘man's world’ has been prevalent for a long time.  

This has made it challenging for women to gain equal opportunities, recognition, and respect in their careers. The UKBG is a great example, being run for almost 90 years by a male leader. 

I have personally experienced this first-hand, having always been part of male-dominated teams and having been trained and mentored mainly by men.  

I vividly recall my first hotel bar interview at a five-star hotel when I was just 16. The bar manager told me that the job was meant for men because it was hard work and asked if I was sure about wanting the job.  

However, I asserted my abilities and convinced him to give me a chance. There have been times when I found myself in decision-making meetings with presidents and/or directors who are predominantly men, and I had to stand my ground firmly in order to gain the respect I needed, stand up for my team, and make my voice heard. 

Secondly, the nature of many positions in hospitality is intense and demanding, requiring full-time and unsociable hours. This often poses a challenge for those who have families or other commitments outside of work. Balancing work and personal life can be difficult and employers need to be more understanding and accommodating to help their employees achieve a work-life balance. 

Thirdly, maternity leave is another issue that poses a challenge for women in the hospitality industry. Finding a replacement can be difficult, and employers may be hesitant to hire someone temporarily, which can impact the employee's job security.  

Unfortunately, a few potential employers have, during a job interview, asked me if I had any intention of having a baby, which is discriminatory and can discourage women from pursuing their careers in this field. 

How far has the sector come?​ 

Throughout my extensive 20-plus years of experience in the hospitality industry, I have observed immense growth and progress in the sector. 

However, while we have come a long way, there is always room for improvement.  

In light of this, it is essential to remind people of the importance of equal rights and the significance of supporting one another, regardless of gender, body structure, career goals, or personal life intentions.  

We are all in this together, and it is crucial that we share our support. It is vital to continue to recognise women can excel in positions such as operators, bartenders or leaders – just as men can. 

What more can be done to improve?​ 

Continue to address the barriers to inclusion in the hospitality industry is crucial for creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. This requires a concerted effort from everyone involved, including employers, employees and industry leaders. 

We can foster a better and more equal work environment by embracing diversity and inclusivity. Effective communication is key - sharing our stories and inspiring others, being humble and available, and providing a safe place for people to seek support.  

It’s important to give people the opportunity to be heard and to provide training and mentorship programs that allow for learning and growth. 

What advice would you give to other women in the industry?​ 

Dream big, support each other, and be resilient.  

My female colleagues have played a pivotal role in my professional growth over the years. We have always supported, helped, and empowered each other, and I am proud of our resilience and determination to succeed.  

I know we will continue to inspire and uplift each other as we shatter stereotypes and pave the way for the next generation of women in the workplace. 

Years ago, a hotel general manager told me that ‘a dreamer is an achiever’, I still believe in those wise words today. 

It’s important to follow your dreams, no matter what they may be. Even bartenders have to study, practice, and work hard to succeed. But with perseverance, challenges can be turned into opportunities.  

So never give up on who you want to be. 

Related topics Beer

Related news

Show more