California native, Ash Miyasaki began working in the hospitality industry in 2002.
Eventually, she completed an education in Belgian and Trappist beer, which became her gateway into the world of American craft beer. Her work at Eagle Rock Brewery in Glassell Park and Melody Lounge in Chinatown, which at the time was solely a craft beer program, solidified her passion for the Southern California craft beer scene.
As assistant manager at Melody Lounge, Ash was instrumental in establishing their new craft cocktail program. Footsies, The Short Stop, and Factory Place Hospitality’s latest concept, 6th & Mill are some of her other notable stints behind cocktail bars. Ash is currently bar manager at Bar Henry, the friendly neighborhood cocktail bar, where she is proud to oversee a team that values hospitality and community above all. In keeping with our celebration of strong women in the industry, we asked Ash some of the most common issues for women bartenders today, and how to deal with them.
“I don’t think there is any cookie-cutter answer to that question,” says Ash. “But assumptions and discrimination are big common threads. There can often be assumptions that a female bartender’s knowledge or skills are less than that of a male bartender’s purely based on gender. Especially in certain markets, a lot of women have to contend with a lack of equal opportunity.” On a positive note, Ash notices a shift in the industry. “There are so many talented and passionate women rising in this historically male-dominated industry, which helps to even the playing field, change antiquated perspectives, and make it an industry we can be truly proud of.”
For Ash, the possibility of being treated unequally is just one issue, “On the more serious side, there are also issues of sexual harassment and assault,” she adds.
Most bartenders agree that navigating tricky situations that arise in the hospitality world can be challenging. “If you work in the service industry long enough, a thick skin tends to be a necessity,” explains Ash. “I try to brush off ego bruises and embrace the gift of humor in the occasional absurd behaviors and opinions of others. For me, that works better than taking them personally.”
Dealing with issues that arise with guests can be especially tricky to navigate assertively from a hospitality standpoint. “As a bartender and a team leader, I often have to be quite diplomatic in dealing with those on either side of the bar,” says Ash. “It’s part of the job. However, I am always happy to challenge gender-biased assumptions when appropriate opportunities present themselves. Sometimes a gentle reminder not to judge a book by its cover is good, and it’s always fun to nicely prove people wrong when they’ve underestimated you.”
So, what is Ash’s advice for other women bartenders who might be feeling a little frustrated behind the bar? “Don’t take other people’s ignorance personally,” she advises. “Stand up for yourself and others. Respond to issues from a place of compassion and awareness, but don’t let others take advantage.”
Here are Ash’s best tips for dealing with issues that arise behind the bar (regardless of gender).
Create your own joy: arm yourself with an incredible work ethic, knowledge, and skill.
Don’t be afraid to walk away: when diplomacy doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to remove yourself from any situation that threatens your health and happiness.
Awareness is essential: this industry has been changing for everyone in the past few years, so of course, it couldn’t help but change for women. I think we’re finding more acceptance, respect, and upward mobility these days, especially with the rise of social media hashtag movements such as #metoo or #womenbehindthebararfter3 there is a growth in awareness, which has lead to more discussion and positive change. Recently, I think there are more women in this industry, supporting each other and advocating for each other’s growth, success, health, happiness, and inclusion. The more allies, the better! We are pushing each other to be better through friendly competitions and camaraderie.