Girl Boss Georgie Mann Shares How She Successfully Climbed the Ranks in a Male-Dominant Industry


POPSUGAR Australia is dedicating the month of September to featuring the next generation of inspired thinkers and courageous individuals who are building and manifesting a brighter future — because the next gen is unstoppable. We will deliver personal essays from young Australians who are making a name for themselves, as well as inspiring thought pieces and interviews with rising talent across different industries throughout the month. Find all of our pieces here, and if there’s someone you think is missing, email our editor so we can share their story — [email protected].

Georgie and I met working at one of Melbourne’s busiest cocktail bars.

She came in and took control with force, and I was in awe of her. She was known in the hospitality industry as a powerhouse, a force to be reckoned with. And honestly, people seemed a bit afraid of her.

Those same people kept telling me that Georgie and I probably wouldn’t get along. They made a lot of fuss about it in the lead up to her taking an authoritative role at my workplace.

“Why?” I asked, more times than I can remember.

The response was always something like: “Because you’re the same. You’re both bossy and sassy and strong.”

Basically, they were saying that two badass women in an industry massively overpopulated by men would clash. I called bullsh*t, and I was right.

Georgie and I became fast friends. We quickly realised we shared a love of oysters, champagne, fancy shoes and flirty banter, and we went on to rule the world of cocktail bar service one popped cork at a time.

Georgie and I, post-work, eating oysters and drinking champagne.

I had some of my best hospitality experiences while Georgie and I worked together. Not only did we understand each other and work really well together, but it was fun and inspiring to have another boss b*tch to work alongside. Seeing her kick goals made me feel confident to keep doing me and be strong and independent, which we all know is a tough thing to do in male-dominant industries.

“Right from the very start of my hospitality career, I was one of two females in a staff of 15 at a venue,” Georgie tells me over a martini. We’d had similar experiences, working as the only female at many of our previous jobs.

Georgie and I worked together for about eight months when she got the offer of a lifetime; to be the Head Ambassador for Malts at Bacardi-Martini Australia.

That cocktail bar I mentioned, the one we met at, was predominantly a whisky bar. Working in hospitality is already male dominant, but when you add whisky into the mix, it becomes even more so.

Many male customers assume that if you’re a woman, you don’t know anything about whisky and that women don’t drink or enjoy whisky.

“I quickly learnt that knowledge is power,” Georgie told me.

“It’s transposed over every element of working in hospitality, whether it be knowing your customers’ dietaries at a restaurant, or needing to have specific recommendations and tasting notes on a certain type of booze, you need to be in the position that if you’re ever questioned on something, you always have a response.

“In the world of booze, there’s a billion different interpretations of flavour. Being able to understand what people mean when they say they want something ‘sweet’ or ‘smoky’ can mean something different for each person asking.

“Learning how to navigate that is something I recognised as important pretty early on.”

At the cocktail bar, there were over 500 whiskies to choose from. That was intimidating for anyone, even whisky-lovers. But Georgie taught me that it’s not about knowing them all, it’s about having go-tos.

“With whisky, it’s about understanding what people are looking for, and being able to give them something they like.

“For example, if a customer described something to me, I’d give them a solution to what they want. I had go-tos for each region, style and flavour profile.”

But it’s not just about Georgie’s impressive knowledge and the importance she places on educating herself that makes her the powerhouse she is, going from cocktail bar manager to brand lead for a global company. It’s also her presence.

Georgie learnt that not only do you need to have the knowledge, but you also need to know how to present it.

“The venues I worked in were very corporate heavy. Many of them were in the CBD, which rings true to it’s stigma of businessmen taking clients out and wanting to impress them.

“Sometimes, they felt the need to make sexist jokes, or ask for a man to serve them instead of me. It’s about having the confidence to school them, to assert control while also being charming.

“You still need to be genuine — being fake is always seen, people aren’t idiots — but it’s just understanding all of the cues. It’s this perfect combination of flirting and being fun and light-hearted, but then hitting them with some hard knowledge.”

I can attest to the lessons you learn working in hospitality. Customer service in those environments teaches you how to read and interact with people you might not normally come into contact with and when you’re a woman, who is considered to be at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to powerful positions in hospitality, it becomes your power.

Another fave activity; spritzing and holidaying.

Georgie taught me a lot about this skill. She also taught me to be fearless, stick to my guns and stand up to people when necessary.

“I never saw myself as different because I was a woman,” she tells me.

“My work ethic was always respected by my managers, and they made me feel like I deserved to be where I was.”

When Georgie moved on from working in service to working for global spirits company Bacardi-Martini, she took this fearless attitude and everything she’d learnt working in venues with her. She says that she wanted to push herself into a new position and was ready to try something new. Plus, she’d always had a passion for how she could bring a brand to life.

As her original role as Lead Ambassador for Malts at Bacardi-Martini, which saw her looking after all the whiskies, and now as National Advocacy Lead, which sees her work with all Bacardi-Martini brands, Georgie’s focus is on bringing these brands to life.

“I was a bit nervous before I started, the role and company were a bit intimidating because it was all so new. It was also a bit of a boys club, which is always nerve-wracking at first.

“I knew that some people would compare to the male I was taking over from. They’d often tell me I had ‘big shoes to fill’. He was Scottish and a dude, which is kind of the perfect ambassador for whisky, so I felt quite a bit of pressure.

Part of Georgie’s job, is to host whisky tastings.

“I was also pretty young. I was only 24 when I started. Everyone actually thought I was older than 24 and I found myself not telling anyone my actual age.”

I asked her how she overcame that initial intimidation.

“I tend to start at new jobs by sitting back and observing. Then, I can plunge myself in and take over,” she says. Smart, I thought, although I’m not surprised.

Georgie has always been a good listener. Even as a friend, she’s great at listening attentively and giving me a well thought-out response to any drama that might be going on.

She’s also an epic storyteller.

“Once I understood what was required of me for this role, I began to set into motion and instantly became really inspired to foster the next generation.

“Whisky felt like the perfect place for that because a big part of whisky is storytelling, you’ve got to be captivating, to tell the story behind the spirit so that others could love it and appreciate it as much as I do.”

Working for booze brands ended up being the perfect fit for Georgie. She’s been able to earn the respect of big dogs in the hospitality industry, she’s made an impact with her education of spirits, which shows through people using the products she works for on their cocktail lists, whisky flights or even as a personal picnic purchase.

“It’s also really nice to be able to walk into any bar and people know you are and how you’d like your martini,” she laughs.

But in an ever-growing, male dominant industry, Georgie continues to thrive. She is so passionate about her work and therefore, so good at what she does, that she barely notices how much she stands out. She’s more interested in educating and inspiring the next generation of industry leaders as well as consumers.

“I gained the confidence to do the job I do, by just getting out there and doing it. I’d love to give other people the confidence and inspiration, just like it’s been instilled in me by some incredible female mentors.”

Georgie and one of her mentors, Penny.

“This job has taught me that I’m resilient as f*ck. It’s also taught me that I struggle to say no sometimes and often take on too much. It’s taught me that I’m extremely creative and that I understand what consumers want, what bartenders want and that I have the ability to work in a corporate environment.

“This job has really given me the confidence to throw myself into anything.”

Georgie is a powerful, independent, badass, girl boss who has exceeded her own expectations of what she could achieve in a male-dominant industry. She’s done it with modesty and the understanding that knowledge is power and it’s a true representation of an inspiring woman whose strength she uses to help others.

Her advice to young women today is: “the hospitality industry is incredible. The experiences that are possible don’t compare to other industries and the friendships you make are some of the best you’ll ever make in your life.

“The booze industry is actually a really accepting one. Booze brands want to work for you, they want to empower you to succeed and be creative, they’re there to be there for you, not against you.

“I know it sounds corny, but if you want to succeed in this industry, all you have to do is believe in yourself. So many industries are male-dominant and it’s up to us women to stand our ground and create a space for ourselves.”

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