Presented by: Kellie M. Rowland, Lead Bartender
Mazzo Cucina D’Italia, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
You have just walked in to your favorite bar. It’s been a long day. Time to celebrate a job well done with the usual: a pint of craft beer, a custom-made cocktail. You pull up to the rail, and check out the menu. As you contemplate between the char-grilled octopus and the autumn harvest pizza, the bartender greets you by name, asking for your order. Looking up to greet that familiar face, what do you see? More specifically, is your bartender a male or female?
Women in bartending is not a new concept. With over ten years of experience in the food and beverage industry in a variety of businesses – from the college town sports bar, to multiple fine dining establishments – my personal experiences in West Michigan have lead me to believe that women are, at the very least, on equal terms – if not the majority in the industry. When it comes to servers, bartenders, and restaurant managers, women appear to be leading the way.
We all know that our recent history as a country has demonstrated women fighting for equality on all fronts. With the history of women entering into this male dominated profession not so far removed from present times, it had me wondering: what’s next for women in the industry? When considering the upper ranks of these businesses – from the booming microbreweries founded right in our backyard, to the top sommeliers and cicerones of the nation – I couldn’t help but consider: in what areas of the food & beverage will women dominate next?
I decided to consult Google. Unsurprisingly, it appears men are dominating the fields, and it’s that very conclusion that needs attention. In an article titled Who Are the Super Sommeliers? by Decanter.com, they take special note to point out that, “Only about 15% of Master Sommeliers are women, but as the number of somms in urban restaurants in the US is skyrocketing, that’s sure to change.” The same is true if you search for West Michigan microbrewery CEOs / Presidents / Owners – from Founders, to New Holland, to Perrin, HopCat, Elk Brewing, etc. – the number of women at the very top of the game is slim. At what point will we stop pointing out women as noteworthy outliers, and simply consider them noted professionals? Moving forward, how do we ensure that all women have a seat at the table?
The solution isn’t always clear. Yet, I believe that we can get women into the top tiers if we advocate for women supporting other women. At the same time, it goes without saying that we are the best version of ourselves when we work together. Men can also support female coworkers by ensuring their voices and ideas are heard, and not cut off, or discredited, or shut down altogether as many women experience to this day. We’ve grown accustomed to a society that encourages competition. We should encourage and support those around us who are skilled and deserving to move up the ladder.
The bartending & mixology industry is not immune to the long history of women forging a path and finding a place. The new territory for women needs to be at the top tiers and by supporting one another, we foster innovation and opportunity in those industries, as well as the world. Lifting ourselves up as we move forward ensures a united front for success.
Kellie M. Rowland has been shaking up and serving drinks for over ten years. Working with seasonal inspirations, she creates premium drink designs that are both simultaneously approachable and adventurous. Her creativity and character has earned her national coverage from Market Watch Magazine, JWM Magazine, a Marriott International Award and local recognition from Grand Rapids Magazine. Currently you can find her at the newest modern Italian restaurant Mazzo Cucina D’Italia,in downtown Grand Rapids.