Barista Babes: Women in the Industry

Think about the people that serve your your daily coffee behind the counter for a second . Do you see mostly men, or women?

It’s a dense topic once you attempt to notice the gender balance in cafes, and one that is hard to pin. Why? Statistically speaking, there’s a pretty even balance in the hospitality industry of gender.

It may seem that there are more women than men in hospitality. However, as the point of contact from customers to a service, or front-of-house, are often women. Women are often chosen in direct service or sales positions within the hospitality realm, such as cashiers and waitresses. They are stereotyped to be more “welcoming” and having better communication skills. Of course, this stereotype is not new, and has seen women often placed in service positions.

Where does this attitude come from?

Whilst there may be a gender balance in hospitality, there are more women in more menial positions than their male counterparts. Looking over at our head baristas pouring coffees. You may notice it shift to male domination behind the machine. Cast your eyes over to the manager or supervisor overlooking staff and or the owner of the cafe. You’ll be finding even more men. Alas, in all our progression we can still see the ingrained attitude of leaving jobs requiring technique, the use of machinery, managerial skills and stressful decision-making to the men.

Through years of development in hospitality, why has this hierarchy stuck? Imagine applying for a job only to be knocked back because a business is striving for an equal gender workforce, no matter if you are the best person for the job. No cafe owner can help the natural ebb and flow of people applying for these positions. When it comes to hiring staff, naturally they are going to choose the best fit for the position and business. It would be discrimination if they didn’t.

Perhaps it is this bias in people’s minds that is choosing men for certain positions and women for others. Is this bias also, then, that is effecting us when we apply for roles? A one gender-dominated industry can be daunting to enter, even more so when it comes to management and business ownership. The combined male voice can sometimes be overwhelming for women trying to break into that end of the industry.

Our very own company director Jess Hol sheds some light on her experience as a woman in the industry

She agrees that there is indeed a gender imbalance when it comes to the specialty coffee industry, more so than mainstream coffee where we see plenty of women behind the machine. “It’s definitely is starting to improve a little bit. In the last five years or so there definitely are more women coming into the industry.”

The gender balance is more dependant on what stage of the coffee supply chain you are examining. As Jess points out, the initial farming, growing and picking of coffee beans is female-dominated, this being a traditionally female role. Jobs of buying and roasting are male dominated, with business, sales and warehouse jobs stereotyped as male roles.

In her years of sourcing and buying coffee beans and business ownership, Jess notes the tendency of sales people and other managers looking to speak to a male manager. “They’ll have a bit of a surprised look on their face when you tell them that you are in charge,” she says. In business ownership there certainly remains that “boy’s club mentality”. However, overall she cannot note a particular incidence of discrimination. Not one to be put off by male-dominated fields, she was the only woman in the first ever cupping competition she participated in. Since then, however, she has noticed a growth of more and more women competing in these competitions.

“Women who have been in the industry longer will have more stories,” Jess comments. In terms of modern progression, things are looking up.

What women are doing in the industry

Luckily, women are trying to shift attitudes and representations of gender discrimination. We don’t see a lot of women in top jobs when it comes to the specialty coffee industry. The arena of jobs such as ownership, growing and roasting, which are more physical, scientific and mechanical, are more often male-dominated. Women have noticed this bias and are making their presence heard in the industry. Take the Newcastle duo over at Floozy Coffee Roasters, whose motto is empowering women in coffee and supporting women in need. They are all about helping advance women in all areas of the coffee industry and getting the word out that we’re here to stay, along with supporting The Rough Period cause with every bag of their coffee sold.

Social media is a powerful platform to simply get word out there about a cause or problem. Take the Instagram account Barista Darlings, dedicated to showcasing female baristas. It’s all about promoting women in the coffee industry to even out the representation that we are currently being shown.

When coffee houses were first introduced in Europe they were a place where only affluent men were allowed to go to discuss matters such as politics and literature and participate in public debate. According to the men, women didn’t have enough brain capacity to engage in such matters. Thank goodness that attitude has shifted and now there is no gender discrimination when it comes to coffeehouse patrons. You can still see an outdated hierarchy when it comes to the business of coffeehouses. It is one industry in many where males saturate higher positions and take home higher salaries. When it comes to the coffee industry, it’s time for women to come to the front.