For three years I worked at a restaurant/nightlife group where…
The women weren’t getting promoted.
The women were afraid to speak out.
The women felt they had to craft a specific kind of caricature of their bodies and their personalities.
And even with all this hardship, women weren’t looking out for each other.
But the men.
The men were getting promoted. Celebrated. Praised.
They voiced their opinions.
They talked, dressed, and played confidently within their careers however they saw fit…
And it was clear as day: they had each other’s backs.
Their loyalty and sense of freedom sounds pretty awesome doesn’t it? I think we’d all want that for our own sisterhood… am I right? We need more betting on each other, more investing in each other. More rooting each other on.
So– how does a gal stand out in a mostly male dominated workplace AND what can she do to help other women out more? You know… without seeming biased. How can we change that mentality of “she’s going to take my job” to “I think she would be great for that job”?
Rad and I had dinner with a woman who is a celebrity in the Whisky world– a male-dominated industry. Her name is Jennifer Wren and she is a US ambassador for Glenfiddich whisky (which is, holyyyyyy shit, the bomb.com.) This gal, she knows her whisky. And she has more than done her part in making headway for womenfolk in the spirits industry. INSPIRING RIGHT? One of our sistas who has gotten ahead and has been helping other women do the same. Jennifer is a BOSS. And she is kind with the most charming sense of humor and love for people. In a nutshell: She’s someone we can learn from, and could strive to be like.
Says Radhika: Really though. After meeting her, our brains with buzzing with a million ideas on how we can grow the #nicegirlsclub. No like really, please come to our book club next Tuesday (the 23rd! 7pm! Monroe!) Let’s grow this girl community in the Bay Area and Portland. OKAY back to Jennifer. You’re going to love this interview. Like LOVE IT. I promise you. It’ll give you such great happy girl power vibes.
Over steak, oysters and whiskey at Epic Steakhouse (near Pier 21 1/2), we chatted with Jenn about women’s roles and advancement in the workplace, using whisky as a symbol of sisterhood and change.
WE ASK JENNIFER HER THOUGHTS ON:
1. Women helping other women get promotions and reach higher levels in their careers. (She has worked years to get to where she is– while simultaneously mentoring other women to climb the ladder in her industry.)
Jennifer: I love this quote by Michelle Obama, “”When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back.” I do this. I do this all the time for women and men that I believe in.
I have worked under some pretty powerful women who had the idea in their head of “OK, I made it here. I got this position. I fought for and earned this authority. Now I have to guard my position with my life against a younger, smarter, more ambitious, fill-in-the-blank woman taking it away from me.” This mind-set only comes from a place of fear and results in these women acting in various ways that I’m sure they are not too proud of in retrospect.
I find that the more I “reach back”, share information and resources, debunk myths, and generally raise the women around me…. it only enhances my life and brings more opportunity to everyone including me. I am currently working with one of my best friends on the Glenfiddich team (East Coast Ambassador, Tracie Franklin). I recommended her for the job and every day I’m like, “Damn woman! You are so talented.” She is pushing me to up my game in unexpected and very welcome ways. I am better for her presence, as is the whole team. Her bright star doesn’t steal from my mine. It enhances it.
2. On women ordering whisky and social construct around it. (She has some great stories about this, and the whisky symbolism in life and in business is so interesting!)
HAH! Everyone keeps saying the question of women loving whisky is so “over”, but here I am again answering it!
I would say on the coasts – especially in the big cities – women enjoying whisky is now a given and a social norm. Within the industry, I wouldn’t say we are completely past working for equal representation, but I firmly believe that there is no longer any kind of stigma for a woman holding any number of influential positions – ambassador, head distiller, master blender.
That being said, I am still traveling to areas of the United Stated where social trends take a little bit longer to hit. In these regions, I’m still getting asked to visit and introduce women to the category on a very basic level.
3. On maintaining relationships/having mentors. (Again, a prime example of DOING and BEING when it comes to supporting other women, and not just SAYING it.)
I think it’s important to recognize that mentors come in all shapes and sizes. They are not just people at your job who have bigger titles than you. I’ve been amazed how many mentors I’ve had in my life who were younger than me, but had a deep insight in some category or expertise that I could really learn from. I’ve been blessed by mentors who did not share my career at all, but the parallels of their lives gave me something I could bring to my work.
My greatest mentors have not been people who gave me a road map, but people who have handed me a paper and pen and said, “You are perfectly capable of drawing your own map.” My current boss is awesome at this. I always know that he’s going to say, “figure it out” which drives me batshit crazy when I have a challenge. But, it’s the single most empowering gift he could give me.
Maintaining relationships is really hard whether it’s mentors or friends- especially because I’m such a moving target these days. I barely have time to call my poor mother! And with social media, I think we are all under pressure to feed this beast of likes and views – often from people we barely know – which steals from those real meaningful connections that feed the soul.
I find that my best girlfriends and I are often mentors to each other and I make a big point to sit down with them over dinner or call them and chat. Even if we can’t do that for six months at a time, that face to face connection is irreplaceable. It’s the single thing I miss most about New York City: my ability to call my “whisky sisters” and meet up with no notice to work out a problem over coffee or cocktails. I’m slowly meeting some awesome friends and mentors out here, but it’s tough when I’m only home maybe a week a month.
4. What we should be doing more of.(And thank G she offered us advice we could actually USE… none of that generic fluff.)
Well, I have a “big mouth” and, while always open to collaborate and listen, I’m rarely afraid to speak my mind. I’ve been both celebrated and punished for this. I believe it helped get me my job and it’s also been a challenge at my job. I would recommend that if you are going to open your mouth to remember two important things: One, only say something if you are contributing an idea or offering a solution. Otherwise you are just talking to talk. Secondly, be prepared that your boldness can garner unintended criticism or jealousy. But, if you speak your truth, eventually the right people will see it and you will be richly rewarded for it.
Regarding “standing out” I would actually recommend to women to embrace masculine social norms and stand firm. Send signals that you are a player in the game and your presence matters. Don’t clear the plates after the meeting. Don’t wait to be called on. Raise your hand. Don’t ask “is this seat taken???” Just take the damn seat!
Men tend to move through the world as if the space in the room, the job, or the last doughnut on the plate is always just theirs for the taking. Women tend to seek permission for everything – especially things they are reasonably entitled to. Stop doing that.
And on that note, I’ll end on one of my favorite quotes from Hamilton the musical because I want to in “The Room Where It Happens.”:
“When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game
But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game
Oh, you get love for it. You get hate for it
You get nothing if you wait for it. . .”
THANK YOU JENNIFER WREN! (Follow her on IG here!) Ladies… what are your thoughts on all this? Any more examples to add? Stories to tell? It’s a meaningful conversation… let’s keep it going. <3
More photos of what we ate at EPIC STEAK:
Make sure to try Glenfiddich Whisky and thank us later! Along with Epic Steak, you can also try Glenfiddich down the street at the Americano at Hotel Vitale, and (also in easy walking distance) at Waterfront restaurant.