Jenna Hemsworth: ‘Pull your weight, earn respect’


Story by Jenna Hemsworth
Jenna Hemsworth was the runner up in last year’s Bartender of the Year competition and counts The Lui Bar, Bad Frankie, Black Pearl and other venues on her resume — you may also recognise her from the cover of the January issue.

Ladies, I would love to tell you that respect just naturally follows on from doing a consistently good job at your chosen profession, but it seems to me that isn’t the case. I’ve worked extremely hard to get where I am now, and to still be regularly patronised and my accomplishments trivialised is really upsetting, but if you start letting things like that stop you, you’ve already given up on yourself. You’ve got to back yourself!

When people see a confident woman who is really good at what they do – it’s either extremely exciting or extremely intimidating. I’ve heard every pick up line under the sun, and conversely been insulted, belittled and verbally abused for trying to excel in my field plus also having a vagina. You can’t win really, but it has definitely toughened me up in a way and I’ve used those uncomfortable situations to grow as a person.

Now, once you start batting eyelashes to get things, eyelashes are all you’ve got. You can’t and won’t gain respect like that. Stand up for yourself and rely on your skill and not your gender or appearance. I’m not suggesting to do things you are physically incapable of, or risk injuring yourself – but don’t pretend something is too heavy, or something too hard to do in order to avoid some honest hard work. Pull your weight and earn respect.


As the numerical minority, it will always appear that women as a whole are being under-represented in the industry. There are some great bartenders who are female that just go about their work and get things done, however there are also some that seem to have a chip on their shoulder and expect consideration and respect to just fall into their laps without putting in the hard yards. Being the loudest or constantly boasting about how awesome you are may seem like the way to get ahead, however someone who is consistently proving their worth through self-improvement, continuous learning and hard work is going to be held in a much higher regard by their peers.

Never stop learning. Use every opportunity to learn something. Never be complacent with mediocrity. Read a lot. Make drinks, taste drinks, taste everything, make classics, make your own drinks. Cook. Play with flavour. Just keep learning. And if you make a mistake, learn from it! Don’t cover it up or try to justify it – just use it to become better. There is never any shame in asking questions. Just don’t ask the same one twice.

Strive for excellence, and then surpass your expectations of yourself. I always thought bartending would just be a side-interest of mine whilst I completed my degree. I thought I’d bow out when I considered I had achieved a respectable amount and become ‘good enough’. Well, one expensive piece of paper saying ‘I did good biomedicine degree’ and seven years later, I’m still making drinks and polishing glasses. I still strive to learn something new every shift, and in no way do I consider myself ‘good enough’. If you ever feel you’ve become ‘good enough’ you’ve just given up. You will be surpassed and left behind.

Leave your ego at the door. As soon as you feel that you are ‘above’ a task or position, you have adopted the wrong attitude required to further yourself in this industry and gain the respect of your co-workers and peers. Work hard, keep learning and remain humble. This one applies to everyone. Humility is so vital to our jobs in hospitality. Don’t believe me? Look up synonyms for ‘hospitality’.

Remember the First Commandment: ‘Thou shalt not be a dick’.

Guests can be troublesomely ignorant toward women in the alcohol industry. I have had customers tell me “Girls don’t drink whiskey, they like vodka”, to which you need to politely, yet firmly, explain why that route of thinking is offensive, and frankly, stupid. Be confident and make a point of offering them the best service that you can provide. Even if you have to smile through gritted teeth and all of a sudden you realise you have quit blinking and all you can hear is white noise.

Most take really well to the education, and leave feeling a little smarter and become a slightly better human, but you need to accept that some will never change their way of thinking.

But hey, that’s their problem. They gotta deal with it.

I’ve worked hard to get to where I am right now, and I’ve certainly ruffled some feathers along the way. In doing so you’re bound to really piss some people off, but what is the point in compromising who you are in order to fit someone else’s idea of what they think a woman should be?

My mum always told me there is no point in waking up to go to a job you hate, because you’re going to have to do it almost every day for the majority of your life. Do something because you love it. I think that’s why I’ve become as successful as I have; I really fucking love what I do. It makes me happy.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.