Culture

Why Gender Equality Is Good for Business

Female bartender holding out a glass
Striving for equality doesn't just make our industry better — it can make your bar better, too. Photo via gruizza/iStock

Last month at Tales, Ivy Mix took the stage during our #SEDTalks to talk about gender equality: not just why it deserves to be part of the dialogue, but the actual, objective facts about what it can do for a business. Simply put, building a more inclusive, diverse bartending workforce doesn't just make our industry better — it makes your bar better, too.

Sexism and the role of women in the industry has been (perhaps more than ever before) a much-discussed topic in the last year, and it’s a topic that’s been on our minds a lot, too. We’ve conducted industry research about the experiences of women and minorities behind the bar, reported on the challenges of maternity leave and pregnancy for bartenders starting a family, and written about how managers can keep their employees safe from sexual harassment behind the bar. We haven’t, however, talked about the business side of things — and who better to help us out than a bar owner herself? We caught up with Ivy to talk through some of the most interesting points she raised in her discussion. Here are a few of the highlights.

Economically, it just makes sense.

One of the most telling statistics shared by Mix in her talk was the relationship between gender equality and economic viability. Countries with a smaller gender gap consistently have more economic growth — and, according to her presentation, “half a dozen global studies have found that companies employing women in large numbers outperform their competitors on every measure of profitability.” Simply put, equality is good for business.

If you limit who you hire, you’re limiting your bar’s potential talent.

Weeding out biases in the hiring process and actively working to recruit from a diverse group of candidates can only help you in finding the best person for the job. “If you're someone in 2016 who is actively not hiring women, you are limiting yourself to your workforce. And you could be limiting yourself to the best possible talents that are available,” says Mix. “So it behooves you to look at all of your applicants and find the best person for the job. It could be a man, it could be a woman. But not hiring someone because of their gender means you're probably missing out on a good opportunity. You're limiting your talent pool.”

Family leave is a big part of the conversation.

And, as any small business owner knows, there’s no magic fix. But working to create an environment where employees are supported throughout a pregnancy, even if it just means being more open and flexible with scheduling, mitigates potentially losing that talent down the road (not to mention the inherent morale and loyalty boosts). Offering flexible leave policies increases worker retention, which translates to lower turnover costs associated with having to hire and train new replacement candidates. Even tech is catching on. Most small businesses can’t offer the kind of cushy leave policies that Silicon Valley can, but simply offering flexibility with scheduling — and getting involved with your local lawmakers — is a step in the right direction.

Creating an atmosphere of inclusivity is good for everyone involved.

You never know where you’ll find your next great bartender — and in some cases, they could be right in front of you already. Working to include servers, hosts and more in bar operations not only builds a sense of ownership among staff; it could also provide someone the confidence they need to raise their hand and contribute to the bar at a higher level. “Maybe when you're doing an R&D session with your staff, you don't just invite your bartenders; you invite everybody and give everybody an equal voice. Try to give people a little bit more authority or ownership or something,” Mix recommends. That’s not just socially conscious management: that’s good management, period.

“It's almost like the golden rule — how do we make our staff happier, and more comfortable, and more free to voice their opinions? The way we've done it at Leyenda, I really want people to take ownership of the bar,” she says. “I really want people to feel like it's their bar. Our bartenders put things on the menu, I trust my staff completely, if someone has an opinion about how we should run things, I listen, and we change it if I think it's a good idea. It's a little socialist, but I think that's honestly the best way to have people believe in what we're doing.”

Don’t miss an opportunity to cultivate talent.

There’s no doubt that a confidence gap can exist in the workplace — and sometimes, the way we perceive and talk about driven, ambitious women can exacerbate that problem, dissuading capable employees from becoming more assertive. With that in mind, managers should try to make a conscious effort to provide motivated employees with the tools and opportunities they need to grow.

Mix cites a story told by her co-presenter, Anthony Schmidt, who employed a young woman who wanted to get involved but wasn’t sure how. “He didn't realize he wasn't giving her opportunities,” she says. “She raised her hand, and he unknowingly didn't give someone the tools they needed to succeed.” As a result, the bar lost a passionate employee who figured that in order to move up the ladder, she simply needed to move on. While managers and owners can’t be expected to hold anyone's hand, nurturing talent, instilling confidence in employees and building an open, positive work environment can all contribute toward having a team of employees who aren’t afraid to step up when they have an idea.

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