International Women's Day '24

International Women's Day '24

We are lucky to be surrounded by so many empowering women in our team, and within the hospitality community.

So, we sat down with Celeste a.k.a. The Girl In The Cafe, to discuss her personal journey in the coffee industry, and how the industry does, and continue to, support and celebrate our females.

Hey Celeste! What drew you to working in the coffee industry, and how has your journey been as a woman in this field? 

I’ve been very lucky to have had very knowledgeable, experienced mentors in the industry making it interesting, exciting and fun! Being a woman, Asian, from New Zealand and an immigrant expat, has come with some challenges but with hindsight and experience, I see it as character building!

Reflecting on your journey, what personal achievements or moments of growth are you most proud of?

Quitting my cafe job! Haha. All joking aside, finding clarity in my passions and skills, embracing the unknown and betting on my own potential was a huge step in my personal growth. I had a vision no one understood at the time, but I had people believing me because I believed in it. 

I find moments of growth in almost every experience of life. It’s very important to me. Every challenge is an opportunity for growth, but it has been the support of remarkable teams, businesses and brands (like yourselves) who are forward thinking, or like-minded people and friends who have helped me follow and unlock my potential. 

My journey has taught me the importance of individual perseverance, self-belief, and the transformative impact of collective support. To take responsibility for how I want to live continues to be an important lesson for me. It's proof that our greatest achievements often lie beyond our comfort zones, waiting to be realised with courage and determination. I’ve not achieved all I want to yet, but I’m learning to enjoy the process and journey of not only going for what I want, but also enjoying and learning as I experience it, rather than focusing only on the outcome. It’s difficult to balance, but practicing the balance is part of it too.

Can you share any experiences or challenges you've faced as a woman in the coffee industry, and how you've overcome them?

The coffee industry is still outwardly quite male dominated, while at the same time there are so many amazing women who are pioneers and leading the charge in so many ways. As women there are still the typical stereotypes, for example of a woman being bossy or self promoting, whereas men are often accepted as assertive and confident. I think regardless of the industry there are still societal ideas and constructs that are subconscious and hard to pinpoint exactly, so it often goes unnoticed, but it’s there. It’s just becoming more subtle and casual. 

Overall, I feel in many ways I’ve been fortunate and really supported by men and women within the industry. There are a number of amazing women who are in top positions in coffee companies who have been and continue to be extremely supportive. I find women generally support each other. It’s in our nature. I try to help and contribute where I can too. I’ve also had many men who have opened opportunities and supported me too. It’s important for men to note that they need to also be a part of leading the way by supporting women. 

One specific example I remember of a challenge was when cold brew wasn’t a ‘thing’ yet. I know that because of my curiosity and my connections I’ve always had insight that others might not. I had tried to pitch an idea to a boss about making and bottling cold brew because I believed it would be popular and a good business move to try. I was refused straight away. So I had my colleague (a man with the same job title as myself) pitch it as if it was his idea. It was accepted immediately. At the time, I didn’t care - I accepted it, because I wanted the opportunity to try my idea more than I wanted the recognition. 

In what ways do you believe the coffee industry can become more inclusive and supportive of women at all levels?

There are many ways within businesses to be more inclusive, such as more flexible work policies, providing extra managerial skills courses or mentorship opportunities, ensuring equal pay, regular assessments and feedback from all staff, constructively proactive practices for a positive, inclusive work and team culture. 

For both men and women in leadership positions to be openly inclusive and supportive of women coming through. 

How do you think highlighting diverse voices and experiences, particularly those of women, contributes to the overall growth and sustainability of the coffee industry?

We all need to see good examples, and sometimes seeing to believe really does help. Having positive role models and examples to inspire and empower individuals, especially women is important in growing a sustainable and diverse coffee industry.  

Supporting diverse voices and experiences sets a precedent for the marginalised being noticed and heard. Ultimately, everyone has different qualities and something to bring to the table, and diversity of perspectives enriches the collective experience. But most of all I think it’s important for women themselves to be courageous and work on building confidence in their own abilities regardless of what anyone else thinks. 

Can you share any stories or examples of how inclusivity and diversity have positively impacted the coffee communities you've been a part of?

This question comes up a lot. But, reflecting on my journey within the coffee industry, I've been fortunate to encounter numerous individuals from diverse backgrounds who've left a positive mark on both myself and the communities I've been involved with. One person that comes to mind is my good friend and coffee roaster, Dumo Matthema of Code. 194 Coffee, who I’ve worked with on my coffee bean subscription over the years. He’s definitely opened my mind and perspective on the industry and contributed to my immediate coffee community. 

Another is Julius Ibrahim, who started a social enterprise cafe Second Shot, to help the local homeless. I remember when he came to see me at my own pop up to ask my advice because he had this "idea". I thought who's this kid wanting to change the world?? Pick up a brush and shovel first mate and help me clean the cafe and we can talk... he's achieved some great things and his cafe ran for many years in East London, spreading love and support to the local community.

As a woman, an Asian, an immigrant in the UK, and a dedicated member of the global coffee community for much of my adult life, I've strived to bring my own unique perspective and experiences to the table. Though it's not for me to judge, I can only hope that my presence has added positively to the richness and inclusivity of the coffee communities I've had the privilege to be a part of.

Find Celeste on Instagram here.

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