Apply for the #shestheroaster Scholarship Today!

#shestheroaster is an organization aimed at promoting and representing self-identified women and non-binary folks in the roasting field, and they’re offering a scholarship for aspiring coffee leaders!


Image courtesy of Jen Apodaca

There are a lot of stories in the coffee industry of women and marginalized people putting in time and work, only to be passed over for positions they’re perfectly qualified for. The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) and other coffee organizations are taking positive steps forward, but it’s difficult to change company culture and internalized biases. The first and most obvious move here is to increase representation.

With this idea in mind, the #shestheroaster hashtag was created. At the 2016 U.S. Roaster Championship, there were around 40 competitors—and not one of them was a woman. Via the Roasters Guild Events Committee, the #shestheroaster hashtag was promoted to increase visibility of female roasters already getting work done, proving that it didn’t actually take a muscle builder to handle roasting work. After the hashtag took off, Jen Apodaca—who had spearheaded the idea for the campaign—began to shape an organization around the idea together with Joanna Alm (of Drop Coffee) and Talor Browne (of Talor + Jorgen). Visibility and representation were just the beginning; now the team wanted to create an educational nonprofit to promote and create safe spaces for self-identifying women and non-binary folx, not just in consuming countries but in origin countries as well, with the goal of becoming a global movement.

The first opportunity that #shestheroaster wanted to offer was a scholarship to the upcoming 2018 Coffee Roasters Guild Retreat in Stevenson, Wash., which is accepting submissions through Friday. The scholarship was made possible with funding from Montana Coffee Traders and Texas Coffee Traders. Beth Beall, owner of Texas Coffee Traders, offered insight on why providing funding the project was so important to them: “Has gender bias prevalent in our society affected me personally? Of course. I don’t know one woman that it hasn’t affected.”

She points to the importance of mentorship and allyship as a way to lift up others. “I solidly believe that as women in the world, community, industry, family, it is our duty and responsibility to support, mentor, and encourage our gender in whatever they want to do. We are a strong community that gets stronger by helping and supporting each other.” But she warns that the work doesn’t stop solely at adding token women to planning committees, boards, and work groups. “There is a very real phenomenon of ‘counting the women’ so that the board can look unbiased. As long as we’re still counting, we haven’t quite gotten to the goal.”

The #shestheroaster scholarship, specifically for self-identifying women and non-binary folx, includes a stipend for airfare ($500), three nights of hotel stay, registration for the event, and a one-year Coffee Roasters Guild membership. Sandra Loofbourow, who works with #shestheroaster on scholarships, explains that “all applications will be reviewed by a committee. We have a scoring rubric to make things as fair as possible, while making the process manageable for the people reviewing applications. The basic categories include organization, mechanics, enthusiasm, and creativity, but we also have a few bonus point categories.”

To support #shestheroaster, you can also organize your own regional event, such as Hannah Ulbrich of Copper Door Coffee’s Cereal Buffet Meet & Greet during Coffee Fest Denver. Any purchases of #shestheroaster merchandise also go straight to supporting the nonprofit.

It’s important to consider our privileges and our abilities to be forces for change with even small steps. When we go micro and examine our industry, the picture is clear: Career options and educational opportunities are not equally available to everyone. Ask your marginalized colleagues about what their opportunities have looked like, or how their actions have been perceived. Ask how their professional experience is quantified against their male colleagues, and you will realize that these are systemic problems we need to address within our industry. It’s not an easy fix, but recognition and moves toward action are the most important part.

The deadline to apply is Friday, June 22, and winners will be announced on July 6. Applicants are asked to either write an essay or create a video answering the following questions:

  1. Why are you interested in being a professional coffee roaster?
  2. What is your experience in the coffee industry?  Has your gender impacted your opportunities in positive or negative ways?
  3. How do you want to continue to empower communities of women in the coffee industry?
  4. What form does your Patronus take?

Send your responses to!

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