la'mel clarke lyaness

Gender equality: The industry revolution

27 November, 2019

Gender equality is a hot topic of debate in today's society and La'Mel Clarke from London's Lyaness gives us his thoughts on where the hospitality sector lies with the issue.

I have worked with and been served by some of the best in the hospitality industry, and a large portion of them have been women. Running the gamut from bartenders to hosts, managers to floor staff; it would be a disservice to simply say they kicked ass at their job. As a result, I am equal parts angry, dismayed and baffled to be writing about the gender pay gap. It is 2019, and half of the population is being paid less. Why are kick-ass workers being paid less, just because of their gender?

According to research by Gumtree Jobs, the hospitality industry is the sector with the largest gender pay gap in the UK, coming in at 25%. On average, female employees on the lower end of the income spectrum generally earn £12,322 per year, compared to the £15,459 of men. Regardless of whether she can make 150 classics in 10 minutes or she can carry 10 plates at once, female employees will only make 75p to her male colleague’s £1 – and if this doesn’t piss you off, I’m afraid to say that you are a part of the problem.

What can we do about this? We can start by dismantling archaic patriarchal norms that our society is grounded in - not just in the hospitality sector - and looking at how we can introduce ideals that benefit everyone. While that sounds like a beautiful, but ultimately unachievable concept, we can definitely start talking about why the hospitality industry is so stuck in the past. As a collective, our industry has been caught unknowingly championing abusers and misogynists – individuals that are gifted prestigious places on bar rankings or highly coveted icon awards. Voters for such awards have the ability to create a shift within our community, and ensure that everyone gets an equal slice of the pie.

However, the reaction to Charles Schumann’s Industry Icon award at The World’s 50 Best Bars was loud, the reckoning was swift, and the award was returned. There will now not be a recipient for Industry Icon this year and I am pleased that we are still seeing ripples of our industry-wide action. 

The ‘Celebrate Her’ event that took place recently, saw an all-female bar take-over at Artesian, serving a menu consisting of drinks created by women. These activations are exactly what we need right now.

Ashtin Berry in the US is a bartender and sommelier who also educates on race and gender within the industry. She talks about how race is also involved in this conversation, because it doesn’t just stop at simply being a female, there are a multitude of unheard voices within the POC community. Another pioneer is Tania Safi in Australia, who recently released a documentary detailing assault and harassment within the hospitality industry. This is such an important step, as many victims feel unable to report these instances because they are perpetrated by high standing members of the community.

And then there’s Speedrack, a competition started by Ivy Mix and Lynette Marreno in New York. Speedrack was designed to showcase the talents of female bartenders, that otherwise would normally go unseen. It gives a voice to a marginalised sector of our community, while simultaneously raising money for Breast Cancer Research. The results are unquestionable. Earlier this year Rachelle Hair of Archie Rose Distilling judged at the second edition of Speedrack in Australia and around 90 women took part, whereas four years ago she says she could probably name four other female bartenders from Australia.

 A furious revolution is happening within the industry towards gender equality, but it’s important that I ask, how is everyone else contributing?

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La'Mel Clarke

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La’Mel Clarke, front of house at London’s Seed Library, looks at the forgotten art of hosting and why it deserves the same respect as bartending.