Hi Kirsten, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed today. Firstly, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your connection to the drinks industry?
I have always been interested in wine and spirits taking opportunities, where I could, to join tastings, visiting wineries and spirits makers while broadening my knowledge. A few years back, I decided to take on some formal education and enrolled in WSET Level 3, followed by the WSET Diploma in Wine and Spirits. I have just completed this while continuing with my day job, helping companies increase their diversity through hiring and education.
I have worked with organisations that have been working on increasing their DEI for the last ten years and others that are still early on in their journey. It’s complex and multistranded and requires cultural and mindset change for it to be effective. There has been a recognition that you can’t just hire more diverse individuals. There has to be an inclusive environment where people feel welcome and supported. I am passionate about helping organisations increase their DEI through training, education and hiring.
For those who might not be familiar with the terms, can you explain what the terms Diversity, Equity & Inclusions (DEI) mean, mainly applied in the workplace?
Diversity – Increasing the presence of differences and more that are protected under the Equality Act, including race – colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, religious beliefs, in addition to socioeconomic status. Increasing the presence of underrepresented or marginalised groups in society within the workplace.
Equity – A recognition that not everyone has the same access to opportunities. It means recognising structural inequalities that have existed in the past and in the current day that advantage some and disadvantage others. Equity is different to equality which is treating everyone in the same equal way. We can’t have equality until everyone starts with the same access.
Inclusion - Creating open, inviting environments for all, where you feel valued, welcome, and at ease, and can bring your whole self to work. A place where it’s conducive to having open conversations, providing feedback and being involved in the decision-making process.
What do you think are the most common unconscious bias you’ve encountered?
Probably the most common unconscious bias I’ve encountered is in the recruitment process. Affinity bias is very common when recruiting – where you are hiring someone you feel you have a connection with or are similar to you. Maybe they went to the same school, grew up in a similar area or reminded you of someone you know or like. Hiring people like you because you think they will fit in is a common outcome of affinity bias. There is an increased recognition that historically this was a standard way to hire. However, creating diversity in the workplace requires consistent processes, procedures, and a recognition where bias can affect the recruitment process.
When did you notice “a turning point” in our industry that started questioning practices, unconscious bias, or in certain aspects, its culture?
Black Live Matters in the summer of 2020, with the death of George Floyd was the turning point for several organisations. The large corporates, for example, Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Constellation had Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programmes running. However, a number of medium and smaller sized organisations recognised they needed to take action.
What changes did you notice in our industry after this awakening?
Over the last 15 months, there have been several initiatives from companies to internally look to improve DEI and create scholarships and bursaries to improve representation. So there are a number of programmes in process, however, it takes time.
What progress have you seen in the industry? Any good news stories you’d like to share?
Many bursaries and scholarships have been explicitly created for more marginalised and underrepresented groups. The Drink Trust and Equal Measures partnership is an excellent example of two organisations coming together to provide an Outreach programme of education, mentoring, and paid vocational training in the drinks industry. Providing both education and work experience enables those coming through the programme not to have the barriers of no work experience placed before them. A fantastic opportunity to create an improved representation that better reflects the diversity of the UK population.
The Scotch Whisky Association has created a Diversity & Inclusion Charter to support its members and provide guidelines and standards to work with to increase diversity across the sector.
The support needs to be at all levels, not just entry points. The Taylors’ Port Golden Vines scholarships play an essential part in supporting two BAME/BIPOC individuals through the MW or MS programme.
What would be the first recommendations to a company/business that might want to take the first steps to audit their practices?
I would recommend engaging with a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion expert and taking advice. It’s a daunting process when considering where to start, and good professional advice will ensure you build good foundations for DEI. They will help with your priorities and set you on the right path.
Consider what you want to achieve, engage with your employees, and start asking questions and listening to your employees.
What, as an industry, shall we do to achieve a truly diverse and inclusive industry?
This is a difficult question to answer, and not one any industry to date has been able to achieve. Start by setting an agenda and commitment around DEI, being driven by the CEO and the Board. It has to start from the top and for there to be a genuine desire to make a change, make investments and accept that things won’t be the same again for the better. If you keep doing the same things over and over, you’ll get the same outcomes, so be prepared for how this will challenge every employee and the culture of your business. It won’t always be easy, but the results will be worth the effort.
Keep the conversation alive, keep talking about it and keep your actions moving forward.
And how about on a personal level? What would you recommend people to do?
Educating yourself is a good start; talk to people, read articles, watch online content. Anything that helps improve your perspective and understanding of DEI. It requires engagement by all to be at its most effective, and the more knowledge you have, the better advocate and ally you can become. There is plenty of content out there, whatever your preferred media is.
Would you have any suggestions of books, social media pages, blogs for people that can be helpful on the subject?
- Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch
- Why I’m not talking to white people about race by Renni Edo-Lodge. Her podcasts are also very good.
- Four Days to Change: 12 Radical Habits to Overcome Bias and Thrive in a Diverse World by Michael Welp
- Belonging: The Key to Transforming and Maintaining Diversity, Inclusion and Equality at Work by Kathyrn Jacob, Sue Unerman and Mark Edwards
- Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
- Diverse and inclusive leaders
- The Diversity Gap
- The CIPD have an excellent selection on a broad range of DEI topics with an HR bias
- Shereen Daniels “the HR Conversaltionalis” who posts regular and insightful content.
- D&I leaders (Diversity & Inclusion Leaders) also post useful content.
- There are some free training courses available on LinkedIn as well.
On a more personal level, what is your drink of choice?
A good glass of Aussie red, I’m particularly partial to a Mornington Pinot noir in the winter. In the summer, an English rose or sparkling wine.