This is the first post of Stop Interrupting My Grinding, a series dedicated to the ongoing conversation about diversity in the coffee industry, here on the Irving Farm blog.
“The Future Is Female” is the powerful theme of the June/July issue of Barista Magazine, and we’re proud to report that our very own Teresa von Fuchs and Liz Dean were asked to contribute their insights on gender etiquette in the workplace. Here at Irving Farm, we’re lucky to have a lot of talented, passionate women in leadership positions, but the coffee industry as a whole still has plenty of room for improvement—especially when it comes to equality of opportunity.
As author Nora Burkey admits at the beginning of the article, this is a contentious topic—but she makes sure to note that equality is not about erasing difference. It’s about embracing different people’s strengths and needs, modifying antiquated systems, and perhaps most importantly, listening to your employees. As Teresa, our Director of Wholesale, says, “When someone is telling you their experience, you don’t need to argue.”
Through conversations with women from around the world, Burkey surveys how success in the coffee industry is often more elusive for those who don’t fall under the umbrella of heteronormative, masculine-performing, cisgender men. The women interviewed in the article share their experiences, asking us to consider all of the small forms of disrespect that add up to a talented, passionate, and competent worker dealing with real feelings of alienation. It’s someone on the phone calling you “honey” in a condescending tone and then asking for the person in charge, or it’s only ever seeing pictures of brawny men on barista competition fliers, or it’s your boss telling you you’re too cocky if you exhibit the same ambition and confidence as male co-workers. It’s death by a thousand cuts.
The article eschews a sense of finger-pointing by offering thoughts on what can to be done to improve the situation. Liz, Irving Farm’s Director of Retail, muses, “You need to build in support for issues like this. I think everyone, regardless of whether they’re working in retail coffee as a career or a part-time position while they finish school, is deserving of a safe, comfortable, welcome workplace where they are heard. I do think that sometimes how those issues are handled can be a deterrent for people in further pursuing a career within the service and hospitality industry.”
Teresa also talks about how coffee, despite its reputation for being a more progressive-minded field, is not immune to discrimination. “As women I think we need to be encouraging people to see things from more sides. These things are complicated. Everyone has a different threshold of comfort, and sometimes it’s OK to call me ‘honey,’ and sometimes it’s not. It’s confusing for us, too. I’m not suggesting we police speech, but it’s not enough to recognize that in our industry small companies can tend to be liberal. The smallness allows fluidity, but usually they are not big enough to have clearly defined corporate discrimination policies.”
It’s a conversation that’s only in its beginning stages, and we at Irving Farm applaud Barista Magazine for dedicating their recent issue to talking about gender in the coffee industry. Read the entire June magazine here—and also check out work by two other Irving Farm women in this issue: photography by Wholesale Representative Mayita Mendez, and illustrations by freelance illustrator/former Irving Farm barista Alabaster Pizzo.