This year’s all-female line up for #50BestTalks share their thoughts on equality in bartending and the industry, ahead of International Women’s Day. By Holly Graham.

This year’s #50BestTalks discussion forum on May 10 in Singapore will be led by an all-female panel made up of Sasha Wijidessa (Operation Dagger, Singapore), Victoria Chow (The Woods, Hong Kong), Bannie Kang (Anti:dote, Singapore) and Ann Pinsuda Pongprom (The Bamboo Bar, Bangkok) discussing the “Female Spirit”. We asked the all-star lineup to share their thoughts on how bartending and the industry as a whole can strive for equality, ahead of International Women’s Day 2019 on March 8.

Sasha Wijidessa (Bar manager/sous bartender at Operation Dagger, Singapore)
“I think equality in bartending can be encouraged in many different ways. However, equality across the board can only happen when we start understanding that in bartending – as in any other industry – the only factors that really matter are the ones that are directly related to your craft. Be more objective-oriented and pay attention to things such as workplace efficiency, and work ethics first. It’s not about your gender, your race, or your sexuality but rather, the way you work and how hard you work towards your next step. In your profession, you should never be defined by anything else other than how you work.”

Victoria Chow (Founder of The Woods, Hong Kong)
“I think the easiest way everyone – consumers, bartenders and servers alike – can start is by not “gendering” cocktails by describing sweet or fruity drinks as “girly” and stronger drinks – or even whole categories as broad as whisky – as “manly”. This is obviously a huge generalisation that essentially says women can’t or won’t enjoy a stiffer beverage and “manly” men can’t be caught holding a fruity drink in a Martini glass! What a sad thing to do, to close half the population off from an entire category of taste and liquids simply because of arbitrary gender norms.”

Bannie Kang (Head craftsman at Anti:dote, Singapore)
“For starters, female applicants for bartending jobs shouldn’t be overlooked by hiring managers, and salaries should always be equal for male and female bartenders of the same position. Speaking from experience, we should encourage female bartenders to participate in more competitions and be actively engaged in the bartending community. While it is still a male-dominated industry, there has been an increase of female rising stars in recent bartending competitions. Male mixologists should also encourage their female peers to join the industry, if said peers are passionate about mixology. Encouragement within the industry strengthens an individual, and the results can have great influence when it comes to convincing conservative families of bartenders.”

Ann Pinsuda Pongprom (Head bartender at The Bamboo Bar, Bangkok)
I believe in the past 10 years, bartending as a job has moved away from the stereotype of moving beer barrels and making fast drinks. It’s now become a more creative job and this opens the industry up to a lot more male and female personalities. I think that both inside and outside an equally balanced company, it’s also now seen as an advantage to have so many staff members of different genders, as they can enhance the bar experience for the guest. With more support and encouragement of all these talents entering the bar scene and excelling in the industry, it will only increase equality in bartending going forward.”