Close Menu

Report: ‘Significant barriers’ to on-trade equality

Equal access to opportunity in the bartending industry remains a “significant challenge” for women and people of colour in the US, a new report has found.

The cocktail industry has yet to provide equal access to opportunity for women and people of colour, a report has found

According to Diversity and Barriers to Access in the Bartending Industry, a white paper published by Tales of the Cocktail and consultant trepwise, the persistent wage gap, the underrepresentation of minority groups in senior roles and social biases when hiring are contributing to structural industry inequality.

The report found that despite significant progress towards gender equality, 47% of spirits industry professionals believe women face significantly higher barriers than men as they work to establish careers in the bartending industry.

While data and public perception supports the hypothesis that gender barriers exist in the industry, only 36% of male respondents agreed with the statement that “Women face significantly higher barriers than men as they work to establish a career in the bartending industry” compared to 65% of female respondents.

The report also found that while only 24% of respondents disagreed with the statement “The bartending industry provides equal opportunities regardless of race/ethnicity”, referral-based hiring meant that minority communities were less likely to be exposed to job availability.

Hiring through referrals tends to mean companies hire employees similar to their current staff. “When thinking about equal opportunities, it is important to consider not only whether two individuals who apply for the same job have the same shot, but also how systemic forces influence who knows about and applies for a particular job,” the white paper reads.

Employer biases, including hiring according to consumer preference in terms of appearance – for example, at bars such as Hooters or Twin Peaks in Las Vegas – means the “the industry as a whole is reinforcing prevailing societal attitudes, including any inherent discriminatory or misogynistic tendencies”, noted the report.

While thankfully explicit incidents of racism and sexism in the industry are now few and far between, the white paper found that remaining barriers are “more deeply entrenched” in everyday attitudes, which is less straightforward to address.

In conclusion the report reads: “Disagreement exists in the industry (and beyond) on the severity and root causes of barriers to opportunity. Men are less likely to believe that women face challenges, and the narrative of bartending as a pure meritocracy resonates with many who themselves have experienced the warmth and support of fellow industry professionals regardless of physical appearance or identity.

“But when it comes to combating these implicit biases, it is no longer about how one individual interacts with others, but about how the industry as a whole exists as an avenue for economic prosperity and self-expression.”

Tales of the Cocktail and trepwise surveyed 2,407 current or former bartenders, bar owners and managers and other industry professionals to inform the report. Additional details from non-profit organisations, internal Tales of the Cocktail data and US Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics was also used. The report did not examine barriers to access in the bartending industry for people identifying as trans, gender non-conforming, or queer.

For the report in full, see

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No