Journalists over the years have been fascinated in sectors which have historically been male dominated and there seemed to be a period of 5 years or so when every second interview focused on how it felt to be working as a woman in whisky. I always found the question confounding as I’ve never thought about my role in whisky in that way.
I came to whisky through tourism, and to tourism through a love of languages, people and travel. So at the tender age of 18, just before beginning a language degree at Edinburgh University, I applied for a job as a tour guide at the newly opened Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre. Little did I know that that decision was to set me on a pathway immersed in Scotch whisky and Scottish tourism for the next 30 years.
The Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre, now known as The Scotch Whisky Experience, has always had a very balanced and inclusive team. A love of welcoming visitors from around the world to share our culture, heritage and our passion for Scotch whisky certainly does not depend on gender.
We are all used to making whisky accessible to everyone, blowing away the myths and the stereotypes, and letting people discover for themselves the diversity, versatility and magic of Scotland’s national drink.
In 2019 SWE won the first ever “Best place to work for women” in the Women in Tourism awards. Again, slightly confounded (but delighted) by this I reflected on the team mix. At board level the current executive team is made up of 3 women and one man. Gender mix was never really part of the thinking – we just got the right people in the right roles – and that applies throughout the business.
Until writing this piece I hadn’t really thought about other Scotch whisky bodies in Scotland in respect of female roles, but coincidentally (or maybe not!) both The Scotch Whisky Association and the Keepers of the Quaich are currently both led by women.
So in a bid to make whisky and women less of a thing, and stop me feeling envious every Fathers’ Day, can I suggest that this Mothers’ Day we all think past the stereotypical flowers. Flowers may be lovely, but honestly, some of us might rather have a bottle of Scotch whisky – with hints of floral notes if that makes it feel a bit more traditional.
By Susan Morrison, Chief Executive, The Scotch Whisky Experience