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The alco-bev industry is most definitely a place for women as much as men: Stephanie MacLeod

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Women have been holding leadership roles across industries for ages and they have left no stones unturned when it comes to breaking the glass ceiling. Stephanie MacLeod, master blender, John Dewar & Sons, in conversation with Akshay Nayak, voices that the whisky industry is most definitely for women.

What inspired you to join the wine and spirits industry?
The intricacies and nuances of the flavour and structure of Scotch whisky was my inspiration to join the whisky industry. When I joined the University of Strathclyde as Researcher on amongst other things the flavour of Scotch whisky, I had little knowledge of how whisky was made, or indeed that I even like it! However, as I became immersed in the world of whisky, I was smitten and knew that the whisky industry was where I wanted to pursue a career. After four years as a researcher, I joined Dewar’s in the Quality Team, and in 2006 after three years of training I became the master blender.

What steps need to be taken to encourage diversity?
At Bacardi we have a diversity programme, which helps women at Bacardi develop their careers and actively encourages women into parts of the business that were previously male-biased. We have some inspiring women at Bacardi, Carol More is the distillery manager of Aberfeldy Distillery, Anne Brock is the master distiller for Bombay Sapphire gin, and on our Global Leadership Team: Eastern Europe, Global Strategy and Communications are led by women. We’ve just appointed a female CMO too. I should also mention that our CFO for Europe is a woman from Germany. In our UK Operations Centre in Glasgow, our Intern and Graduate Scheme has probably more female than male applicants and successful candidates. The whisky industry is most definitely for women.

How do you see women partaking in the alco-bev industry especially in technical roles?
The whisky industry in Scotland is one of, if not the largest employer. As more and more women have entered the workplace in the last 20 years, it is natural that women will have found a path in the whisky industry. Recently we are seeing an increasing number of female graduates in STEM subjects, which is leading to a growing number of women in technical and engineering roles too. It’s an exciting time for whisky and women.

Being the first woman Master blender at John Dewar & Sons in over a century’s time, what were the challenges and opportunities that you faced?
I know I have the best job in the world! Every day I work with talented and passionate people, addressing the needs of our Global whisky appreciators, with beautiful Scotch whisky either as one of our Single Malts – Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie, Royal Brackla or Glen Deveron or our exciting Dewar’s and William Lawson’s Blended Scotch whiskies. My challenges are whisky based, and I love a challenge!

Your mantra for women aspiring to join the Alco-Bev industry.
The alco-bev industry is most definitely a place for women as much as men. We at Bacardi foster a challenging, and nurturing environment that welcomes talented, passionate and motivated people. If you’re in Scotland and are keen to learn more, hop in to the Dewar’s Aberfeldy distillery and we’d love to take you through the heritage of Dewar’s Scotch whisky!


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