A Diageo global brand ambassador has highlighted a trio of women trailblazers enhancing the spirits industry across science, storytelling and community.
Speaking to The Spirits Business, Jenna Ba, global brand ambassador for Diageo, who is based in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, named three women she looks up to ahead of International Women’s Day today (8 March).
“The three women I want to highlight, I would describe them as a catalyst for community, a full-time traveller through history and storytelling, and an intrepid scientist,” Ba said.
“First, master blenders and master distillers; it’s incredible what they get to do, the flavour knowledge is the benchmark of everything. It’s just amazing. I have a big shot out to Emma Walker, our Johnnie Walker master blender, the first woman master blender in 200 years. She’s doing incredible things.
“On the Tanqueray side, we have Joanne McKerchar, who is a historian and archivist. It’s so beautiful that we have historians, and every time I chat to her – she’s like a Tanqueray Doctor Who in how she traverses time and space, and just brings stories to life that leave you mesmerised.
“And Anna Sebastian is another shout-out that I would have to celebrate. She is really building a community of women within hospitality, which started in the UK and London, but it’s growing globally.”
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘Equity’, a key focus in Diageo’s 2030 Spirit of Progress action plan.
The company said it was committed to ‘mitigating inequities in the workplace’ and across society through ‘positive action’ (not positive discrimination).
Furthermore, Diageo acknowledged that ‘change is driven from the top’ and pledged to care for its employees to ‘foster a sense of belonging, openness, and progression’, regardless of the person’s background.
Ba noted how staff welfare across the on-trade has become increasingly important since the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I think a lot more focus now has to be on growing talent and focusing on what we call ‘human sustainability’,” Ba added. “How important it is that everybody has the chance to grow, to work-life balance, and to just be operating in a safe environment.
“There’s so much excitement in the local team; everyone’s excited and trying to experiment, and we are all happy to have competitions back.
“We have World Class, and everyone is just really excited to get to network and travel again, expose their ideas to the world and have their drinks tasted by more people.”
To celebrate International Women’s Day, SB rounded up 10 cocktail recipes from women who have founded spirits brands or work at acclaimed bars around the globe.
The question was also raised about how to address gender-imbalance in the hospitality industry.
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Author: Melita Kiely