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Building a More Inclusive Bar: Practical Tips to Support Women and Non-Binary Individuals

Let me start off by saying that I am in fact not an expert when it comes to this subject. However, over the last two years, I’ve been doing the work, listening in and unlearning, to re-learn how we can be more inclusive. I haven’t always gotten it right (and probably won’t in the future) but I can’t stress the importance of trying anyway. 

In the last two years of putting together The Ada Coleman Project, we’ve been faced with many questions, but one we continuously hear over and over again… ‘What can I do to better support women’ 

In the pursuit for workplace diversity, inclusion, and equity, it’s crucial to recognise that attracting and supporting women and non-binary individuals goes beyond mere lip service. It requires concrete actions and intentional strategies aimed at creating a workplace where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered to thrive. If you’ve ever wondered why it seems challenging to attract women and non-binary people to your business, you’re not alone. However, the good news is that there are actionable steps you can take to address this issue and foster a more inclusive environment. Here are a few things I’ve come across that are practical recommendations to attract and support women and non-binary individuals in your businesses. 

Implement DE&I Policies: Develop and implement comprehensive diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) policies that explicitly address gender diversity and provide clear guidelines for promoting inclusivity in the workplace. Equal Measures has a generic DE&I policy on their website you can download, so use that if you’re not sure where to start. These policies should outline your commitment to fostering a culture of respect, equality, and opportunity for all your employees.

Provide Cross Training: Offer opportunities for cross-training and skill development that enables the women and non-binary individuals that you work with to explore different roles and advance their careers within the organisation. Cross-training not only enhances employee versatility but also promotes a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Conduct Bias Training: Organise bias training workshops for all employees to raise awareness of unconscious biases and their impact on decision-making processes. Here is a free short course on unconscious bias training, if you can’t access a paid one. By doing the work to recognise and address biases,  you and your team can make more informed and equitable choices in how you engage with each other and your guests…

Offer Educational Workshops: Provide educational workshops and training programs that empower employees to make better decisions and work towards career advancement. Women tend to excel when they know they are working towards a goal, help them get there by working with your local brand reps to teach your team more about different topics. By investing in employee development, you demonstrate your commitment to supporting their professional growth and success.

Promote Active Listening and Advocacy: Encourage male colleagues to be mindful of when women and non-binary people speak and refrain from interrupting them. If a male counterpart interrupts, encourage others to intervene respectfully by saying, “She/They was not finished.” This simple act promotes a culture of respect and ensures that everyone’s voices are heard. In my personal experience, this happened to me and I never felt more supported and validated in my opinions. 

Speak Out Against Bad Behaviour: If you’re a leader in your business work to create a culture where employees feel empowered to speak out against bad behaviour, including harassment, discrimination, and microaggressions. Encourage bystander intervention and provide support for those who report incidents of misconduct. By holding individuals accountable for their actions, you send a clear message that such behaviour will not be tolerated.

Listen and Validate Experiences: Listen to and validate the experiences and perspectives of women and non-binary people in your workplace. Take action to address any issues or concerns they raise, whether it’s through policy changes, training programs, or support initiatives. Creating a culture of trust and openness cultivates a sense of belonging and encourages women to contribute their full potential.

Offer Health and Well-Being Benefits:  If you have the means to as a business, offer health and well-being benefits that address the specific needs of women and non-binary people in the workplace. Don’t know what these needs are? Just ask! Solicit feedback from your team to ensure that your benefits package meets their needs and priorities.

Prioritise Diversity in Events and Outreach:  If you’re hosting guest shifts, or being asked to participate in them, take a critical look at the diversity of the guest bartenders or speakers. As a bar manager or owner, you have the choice in who you host, so consider if you’re being diverse enough in your approach. On the other side of the coin, if you’re heading to a guest shift/speaking opportunity and ask questions on who else might be joining the event, and consider if you can bring along some of the diverse members of your team. It’s about taking ownership of the situation, where you can, to be more inclusive. 

Becoming a better ally for women and non-binary individuals in the workplace requires a commitment to action and ongoing learning, but by taking a few small steps to be more mindful of your actions as a person and organisation you can create a more inclusive and equitable workplace for your staff, but also our industry. Remember, allyship is not a one-time effort but an ongoing journey of growth and accountability. To go far, we have to go together.

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