Mumbai: The most discussed subject across industries is women empowerment and gender fluidity in the workplace. At times you wonder whether it is just a conversation and no one is willing to bell the cat.
For years, the alcohol-beverage industry in India has had an uneven ratio of men vs. women- from a professional as well as consumption perspective. A McKinsey 2020 Women in the Workplace report found that women represent 21 per cent of the entire C-suite across industries, while just 10 per cent of C-suite roles in the food and beverage distribution sector are made up of women. However, the alco-bev industry in India has witnessed a massive shift in the past few years with an increased representation of women not only as business leaders or management personnel but also as consumers and bartenders, signifying the diminishing gender gap and the increasing importance of gender equality.
Bacardi India trade ambassador – West Pearl Fernandes spoke to IndianTelevision.com on her journey with Bacardi and the initiatives the company has taken to make the workplace more attractive to women not only in the boardroom but also as bartenders.
Fernandes is the trade ambassador for the Bacardi India Portfolio. She has completed her WSET – Level 2 and worked with various labels of wines and spirits throughout the course of her career.
She started her career with the Oberoi Group as a guest service management associate in 2015 and then worked at their iconic hotel The Oberoi, Mumbai. She then sought the opportunity to be a part of the pre–opening team of Future Group’s first-ever restaurant venture ‘ Sorrentina’. Through her time there, she saw the brand grow from a single restaurant to two and make a mark in the retail space.
Fernandes is an avid home cook and usually de-stresses by cooking up a meal after a long day. She is a pet lover and has four furry siblings back home in Pune.
On women leaders in the alco-bev industry
Over the past few years, conversations around gender equality have gained a lot of momentum, with more people coming out in support of women having an equal seat at the table, across industries. Similarly, within the alco-bev industry as well, women are receiving more recognition for their skills and expertise. It is energizing to witness this growth in the industry, and with more opportunities for strong women leaders to enter the C-suite, I am extremely thrilled to see how the industry progresses in the years to come.
On very few women taking up bartending as a profession
For a long time, bartending was viewed as a male-dominated profession, but with more conversations and equal opportunities, we have been seeing a rise in the number of female bartenders in the industry today. In a bid to encourage more people to join the bartending community, we launched a training program, Grey Goose – House of Change, which is Bacardi’s initiative in supporting purposeful bartending careers in the country. As more women enter the bartending industry, I am looking forward to seeing more women join the initiative over the coming years as well.
On your journey and why this profession
My passion for this line started with my love for food. I learned to cook while watching my mother in the kitchen from a young age. Initially, I joined the industry to become a chef but soon realized that my love lies in having meaningful interactions with new people as well as creating experiences and memories for them. Bartending, which is almost like working in a kitchen where you have to understand the blend of flavours while doing it with flair, came as a natural next step. With my eyes set on engaging my skills and passion, I took great interest in stepping behind the bar and experimenting with alcohol and different flavours.
On the program initiated by Bacardi
While bartending is certainly an up-and-coming profession, a lot of people often lack the correct mentorship and access to relevant opportunities to explore new avenues in their careers. Keeping this in mind, we introduced GREY GOOSE House of Change, a program aimed at grooming bartenders in a way that brings out the best of their personalities. Through various sessions, the selected bartenders go through multiple masterclasses held by various experts from different fields. Taking professional bartenders on a journey of immersive sessions on grooming, managing their social media accounts, fitness, photography and much more, what makes the program truly stand out is its commitment to refining them in every way beyond just the actual skills of bartending.
On personal experiences and anecdotes at work
A sense of support always comes from the culture that is built into the environment that you work in. Right from the time I joined Bacardi, I was always given equal opportunities to showcase my skills like my male counterparts. Not only has the team been extremely supportive of me, but they have also always offered the opportunity for me to present and hone my skills while giving me the space to voice my opinions and act upon them.
On making workplaces gender diverse
While all industries are inherently diverse, I believe that the basic needs and demands of employees remain the same – including inclusivity. Building a gender-inclusive culture can go a long way when it comes to making employees feel open and welcome at the workplace and voicing their opinions. At the same time, offering opportunities to individuals regardless of their gender, with a focus on their capabilities, is a rule that all future-forward workplaces must embrace. In the end, communication is key to success when working with other people, making it imperative for workplaces to lend an open ear and hear out their employees’ needs. Hence, listening to them and leading with positive changes could definitely go a long way in making work for all!
On your personal mantra for women joining this profession
Simply put, my personal mantra is ‘patience and persistence’. All good things take time, and nothing comes easy. For all young women entering the industry, patience and hard work are key. Giving your 100 per cent at all times will definitely pay off in the future. Some days are harder than others, but you have to keep at it and not give up – and being persistent while having your future goals in mind will only bring you closer to the life you envision for yourself.