Meet Arina Suchde
As an industry, bartending for women is still looked upon as an unconventional profession in India. So, how do you deal with the stigma related to it on an everyday basis?
Thankfully I haven’t had to deal with much negativity through the course of my career, it’s been more of the same question from most people I meet or even journalists who have interviewed me in the past. “Being a girl, how did your family/parents allow you to work in the bar industry?” or “What will you say you do for work on a matrimonial bio data?” or “What if your partner/in-laws have a problem with your line of work?” I used to find such questions really funny and a tad bit offensive. But I realised that it’s just how our society is conditioned, people don’t know any better because we’re always taught that certain jobs/industries are better suited to a particular gender. Hopefully this mentality is slowly changing with our generation and the one after. When I was younger, I used to get defensive when asked such questions, because I was brought up in a home where I wasn’t treated differently because I’m a girl/woman. I didn’t need permission to choose my career path. I grew up around food and alcohol so my journey to becoming a chef and mixologist was very organic. I think it’s about educating people and starting a dialogue to make them understand that a profession is just that. There shouldn’t be a need to specify a person’s gender before the post. It has to be bartender, chef, mixologist, server, captain, manager etc. and one needn’t be recognised as a lady/female/woman anything but instead by their work and standout based on their achievements and not their gender.
Why hiring more female bartenders is important to our society?
I think being a bartender is one of the coolest jobs ever to have, you get to meet so many different kinds of people, get to work with such amazing ingredients, put your creativity to the test and I don’t think gender shoulddecide who would be better suited for the job. A person’s qualities, talent, experience and credentials should be the deciding factor. The only reason I would say more women need to be hired currently is to level the playing field and show the world that we can hold our ground just as well as men can behind the bar. It’s important to our society to establish some sort of equality and have enough representation from all genders however one may choose to be identified and addressed. It’s not as black and white as Male- Female anymore. It’s high time we look at considering people for a job and not a gender.
How has it been different for you at any workplace than your male counterpart?
Unfortunately, in some places, it’s hard to be taken seriously or be accepted in a position of authority because you’re a woman. There’s also the occasional guest who stays at the bar longer than required trying to engage the woman behind the bar and hindering her from doing her job and delaying other orders in the process. Tact and diplomacy come very handy in such situations. But it’s not all bad, there are always 2 sides to a coin. I didn’t have to do any heavy lifting! On a serious note, I hope seeing and interacting with women behind the bar can influence guests who can then support their daughters in the future if they want to work in the bar industry.
Has there been any women figure in your life who have influenced or inspired you to become the pioneer that you are today?
My mother and sister play a big role in the person I am today, they help build up my confidence, are always there to hear all my ideas and are always candid when it comes to giving me advice and feedback.
How would you like to inspire the next generation to come and join this industry?
I’d like people to see that being a bartender is a respectable and prestigious job for women and men alike. I want people to see it as a viable career option for themselves. Another thing I’d like the new generation to learn is that they can make a difference to not only the industry or society but also to the environment through their work behind the bar. I’d like to see sustainability become a part of everyone’s foundation when they’re studying and training to be bartenders.
What’s it like to be a woman behind the bar, making people drinks?
I don’t do it very often nowadays, but my time behind the bar is always exciting, the energy, the vibe, the music, the people, the conversations, the whole experience is just truly amazing and fun. The underlying theme of this is – Choose To Challenge – how you through your work have challenged the perception of women in the work space and especially in an industry like yours and what is that you would like to challenge to change going further. Even though I haven’t worked at a bar in many years, I have been doing menu development projects, workshops, trainings and events for a while now. And my approach whether in the kitchen or behind the bar has always been with health and sustainability as the main focus, so besides being a woman, it was initially challenging to get people on board the low/now waste wagon till they actually experienced what can be done with the so called “waste” and how it can be used to create recipes that can help increase an outlet’s income instead of being chalked off as a loss. I have had to deal with my fair share of men who were condescending, dismissive towards me or threatened by me and tried to create obstructions in my work but standing my ground, letting my work speak for itself and holding my head high is what helped me come out in front of it all. I’d like to keep doing my work my way and also keep advocating for equality and sustainability to make it an industry norm and not just a fad or marketing hooks, diversity or token hires.