Fellow Products Hosts Women in Coffee Event

Women in Coffee was a panel event highlighting issues of gender discrimination in the workplace. Leaders from prominent businesses gathered to discuss salary negotiation, sexual harassment, and aging at Fellow Products’ new retail space in San Francisco.


Photos courtesy of Akaash Saini

On Saturday, March 24, Fellow Products hosted a Women in Coffee panel event. Attendees gathered over refreshments in Fellow’s new retail location and headquarters located in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco. The evening was filled with insightful stories and discussion led by Eileen Hassi Rinaldi, founder and CEO of Ritual Coffee Roasters, Helen Russell, cofounder and CEO of Equator Coffees & Teas, Rachel Konte, chief of design at Red Bay Coffee, and Trish Rothgeb, cofounder, co-CEO, and director of coffee of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters.

Folks gathered from across the Bay Area to see female leaders talk about their experiences in the coffee industry.

In light of the recent #MeToo movement and the #CoffeeToo movement, it has been an ongoing battle for women and their allies to bring up the everyday issues they face in order to come together to dismantle the traditional ways women and minorities are treated in the workplace. The inspiring individuals on the panel shed their “two cents” around hot topics such as gender pay inequality and sexual harassment. Helen shared, “I encourage women to negotiate a higher pay as I am a big product of asking. Valuing people is key because the more we can create impact, the more we can pay everyone in the supply chain.” Eileen added, “A zero tolerance for sexual harassment policy should be the standard, just like how someone should wear an apron while working in a café. We, as a company and industry, are responsible for creating that culture.”

Panelists encouraged the audience to negotiate for higher pay, and talked about valuing themselves and their employees.

Conversations held and events hosted like the Women in Coffee panel are crucial for bringing overlooked groups together to talk about how to prevail against the everyday issues and challenges faced. “I’ve been told by a man that my job was supposed to be taken by a younger man,” Trish told the audience. “As a man ages, he can become a statesman in coffee, but as a woman, it’s not that easy to just breeze into the elder statesperson. It’s almost like I have a ticking clock on my forehead. So owning my own business keeps me in [specialty coffee] and helps me continue fighting for that space. [Also], to see a young person with a ton of potential and to be able to say, ‘I know what that is, I see it in you,’ and, ‘Come on, let’s do this job together that I know you can handle.’ I think that’s why I keep doing what I do.” 

Trish Rothgeb of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters discussed ageism and how she tries combat perceptions of value and skill by investing in new baristas who are eager to learn.

Saturday night’s event proved to spark and continue the conversation for spurring further efforts toward creating inclusivity and gender equity in the specialty-coffee industry. “In a managing position, we are responsible for setting the tone in the culture we want to create. When the company is small, it’s easy to set the culture in the beginning, but as the company grows, that culture and policy needs to be clear,” stated Rachel of Red Bay Coffee. Additionally, Helen offered extremely sound and constructive advice for how to empower individuals to negotiate for higher pay and raises: “In pre-negotiation, [state] this is how long I’ve been here, these are the things I’ve learned, these are the things I’d like to do. I’d like to do these three things, and I’d like more money.”

All proceeds from the evening’s event will go toward the IWCA (International Women’s Coffee Alliance), an organization that “leads women’s empowerment in the international coffee industry by supporting and growing a network of self-organized, self-governing, women-led chapters across the globe,” according to the organization’s website.

To watch the replay of the event’s livestream, courtesy of Sprudge, click here.

Emmeline Wang is a coffee blogger, freelance writer, and coffee professional out of San Francisco. She advocates for the specialty-coffee industry through her personal blog, EmmMeetsCoffee, focusing on featuring up-and-coming roasting companies. Aside from her life consisting of most things coffee, you can find her in nature pondering the meaning of life or in coffee shops, curating new music playlists and ultimately cherishing the simple pleasures of life.

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