On International Women’s Day, Starbucks celebrates the women leading the way in the coffee business
Claudia, director of Starbucks South Cone – Argentina, Chile, Uruguay
“In 2007, by chance, the book "Put Your Heart Into It" came into my hands, and after reading it, I was deeply impressed to learn Howard Schultz's vision of making a company led from the heart, developing it with the soul and always placing people in the center. I immediately wondered if a company that puts its partners and clients at the center of its operation was the right place for me. The answer was simple: yes it was.
My journey with Starbucks began in 2008, as District Manager, when I cut the ribbon on store number 29 in Chile. Today, after 15 years working in the company, we are about to open our 300th store in the Southern Cone, and will celebrate our 20th, 15th, and 5th anniversaries in Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay, respectively.
I am passionate about having the possibility to impact different communities and make our stores unique places to work. There are more than 4,000 partners in Starbucks Southern Cone to whom we offer training and real and attractive career development.
Starbucks also allowed me to walk the path towards the exciting world of coffee, being able to see first-hand the entire value chain that exists behind each bean: from planting, maintaining the coffee trees, harvesting and subsequent sale. I had the unique opportunity to be in Costa Rica, and see the support that Starbucks provides to the coffee communities. That experience made me realize the responsibility of honoring each coffee bean that we serve daily, as a show of respect for all families and especially to all the women who are behind its production.”
Rina, head of sustainability and social impact – Malaysia
Rina started as a part-time barista in college before taking on different roles in marketing, public affairs, digital strategy and social impact. In 2022, she spearheaded the Starbucks Upcycled Flavorlock Pouch Program, where Starbucks works with women and girls from low-income households to help turn whole bean coffee packaging into small lined pouches, giving them a second life. Not only does this save potential trash from the landfill, but for every pouch sold, Starbucks donates money to the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in Kuala Lumpur to contribute to vocational training to empower women and girls from undeserved communities.
“It is more than just coffee. I am very fortunate to love what I do and be presented with many interesting opportunities. At Starbucks, every day is an ongoing learning journey and it’s always exciting for me! Inspired by many partners, communities and NGOs that I worked with, my team and I are happy to pay it forward by strategizing sustainable social impact programs that are able to empower and create pathways for
to the beneficiaries. While it has its challenges, it is undoubtedly a very fulfilling career.”
Grace and Hope, barista and shift supervisor, mother-daughter coffee masters – Korea
In 2005, after dropping her daughter off at school, Grace Bae saw a job advertisement at a nearby Starbucks and applied to be a barista. She’d been searching for jobs but felt she was being rejected due to her age.
Grace Bae: "I started working at the age of 39, and I'm already in my 50s, but my goal is to work for a long time because I'm good at managing my physical strength. A cup of coffee can be the start of someone’s day or a precious moment to enjoy with others, so I try to craft every beverage wholeheartedly.”
Hope: “Starbucks, where my mother worked, was my hangout place. After school, I used to do homework with my friends at Starbucks and wait for my mom to finish her work. It was a familiar space. Most of my childhood memories were with Starbucks. My mom taught me know-how to memorize things easily. It's a strange and special experience that I still have ‘buddy’ customers. These days, I have regular customers who ask me what's going on (after I’ve been away). This workplace has become a precious part of my life, and means as much to me as it does to my mother.”
Katsuko, café attendant – Japan
“I was married in my 20s and a housewife since then. My first part-time job was at age 76 (with Starbucks). When people are almost 80 years old, they are not given much responsibility in society generally. However, when I come to the store, I feel responsible and work on cleanliness as if I am in charge. As a resident of this area for nearly 50 years, I consider it my role to connect the community and my store. I want to be a bridge between artists and my store.
I am happy, rewarded and grateful to be given the responsibility of keeping the store and backyard clean. I am happy to be in a circle of young partners who are as old as my grandchildren and to talk with them.
I thought I can cheer up the elderly in my community through my work. Younger partners will be able to provide customer service that is sensitive to the feelings of younger people. I can understand how elderly people are feeling. When I find someone who looks tired in the crowded store, I call out to him or her and also place a reserved card on a seat and ask him or her to sit and wait.”
Sneha, manager, one of 15 all women’s stores – India
“My journey, it's been full of curiosity, learning new things, and of course, developing myself from a barista to a store manager.
When I started working in an all-women store, we were open about everything, like sharing anything with our team. When we have our store briefings, we could talk openly. So that was one thing which I loved the most about an all-women store. And I love how the customers also observed us… it was like, they were surprised. They've never seen this thing.
What makes it special is, of course, the development of our women partners. They start building the leadership qualities.
Starbucks is a place where new ideas are welcomed. It means working in a positive environment where there are no boundaries to one’s growth and learnings. I always go back to the time when I was new to this organization and I was happy to know that the mission and values are not just theoretical, they also can be seen vividly in our stores.”
Tamara, store manager – Canada
“Starbucks mission and values match my own personal values. Empathy and community mean a lot to me. Ethical purchasing practices mean a lot to me.
(Many years ago), we had just launched a Reserve coffee that was a first offering from a co-op in Africa run by women – Burundi Ngozi. This was a groundbreaking time for female African coffee growers and my baristas were so inspired to share this story of empowerment in our industry. This is where I made it my mission to share my passion for coffee, coffee stories and coffee education.
I love seeing partners engage with our customers around coffee stories. Taking passionate partners and having them pursue (the) Coffee Master (program) has been something I feel is incredibly important for our partner experience. Over the past 6 months, I have had four partners at my location become Coffee Masters, all future female leaders for Starbucks.”
Qiong, coffee cupper – China
Coffee cupping is the professional practice of observing the tastes and aromas of coffee.
“I chose to join the Starbucks Yunnan Farmer Support Center (FSC) because I majored in agriculture. As a Yunnanese, I naturally feel connected to coffee and tea, two major economic crops in Yunnan, and I used to have internship experience with a tea house as a tea cupper.
In Yunnan, our FSC agronomists frequently visit the famers and teach them how to grow better coffee. Each year, our quality control team goes to the farms with the agronomists to do quality inspection, teaching farmers cupping, talking to them and helping them tackle the challenges in improving coffee quality. We are doing everything we can to support Yunnan farmers and the local community. One of my jobs is to go to coffee farms, teaching farmers how to do cupping.
I love coffee and I think coffee is an art that reflects a taste of life. Every coffee has a story, and every coffee has its own flavor. You can always learn something new from each coffee.”
Sylvia, national coffee ambassador, store manager – China
“When I was in college, I often went to the Starbucks store nearby. I was always inspired by the relaxing and joyful atmosphere created by Starbucks partners behind the bar. I thought being a barista should be fun, so I joined Starbucks.
The moment I put on my apron, I decided to be a good barista, because I always have role models around me. When I do a heart in latte art, my friends can already do reverse tulip. When I learned tulip, they can do swan... Not just latte art, but other skills as well.
Our partners are not only diligent in practicing, but also willing to share experiences with me. So, I would love to share my coffee knowledge with more partners. When we share the same interests and beliefs, the way forward is hopeful, full of passion and strength. In the store, when a customer is smiling (because of) satisfying latte art, or reply to our greetings, these kinds of details make me feel that we are doing the right thing with our mission and values.
A small coffee bean holds great energy, and so do we. As long as we keep our faith and keep moving forward, we can certainly inspire the infinite possibilities of coffee and ourselves.”
Beth Ann, manager, digital traceability program – Starbucks Support Center, Seattle
“It wasn’t until I joined the Global Coffee team that I truly understood that Starbucks mission and values extend far beyond our offices, stores and local communities.
Our commitment to ethical coffee sourcing and the standards we have in place through C.A.F.E. Practices are rooted in this strong belief and realization that every decision we make as a company has a direct or indirect impact on people and planet, and with that comes immense responsibility and accountability. It’s not lost on me how significant this commitment is given our scale. We source coffee from over 30 countries and nearly 425k farmers around the world!
I like to refer to the Digital Traceability tool as technology with a soul because it’s grounded in our commitment to transparency. Every customer should know where their coffee comes from, how it was sourced, and all of the hard work that goes into each cup. But we’re creating space for every voice to be heard and human story to be told, from the first 10 feet to the last 10 feet and every step in between. When you can replace labels with faces and places and use the power of storytelling to change hearts and minds, it becomes so much more than a cup of coffee.”
Veronika, national barista champion – Italy
“Coffee attracts me with its history, but also with its uniqueness and the amount of work that goes behind a regular cup of coffee. I was always fascinated by a simple coffee bean – its shape, aroma, but also by many legends and rituals connected with this fruit. It's amazing how we got from Kaldi in Ethiopia to one of the most consumed and famous beverages in the world.
Being a woman in the coffee industry is special, because when people think about farmers, roasters or baristas, they usually think about male workers. Women are highly present in fieldwork, harvest and sorting. Let’s not forget about some countries as Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda or Indonesia, where women play essential roles on farms. And I think that it would be nice having more women in trading, exporting and analysis or lab work where they are less present (now) because also there they can bring something new and help us grow up together.
It’s very important for us women to remember and believe that we can do and reach anything.”
Merel, plant supervisor, Amsterdam Roasting Plant – Netherlands
“In manufacturing operations, every day is different. We receive the green coffee, load and clean it, roast coffee, bag the coffee and load the pallets with bagged coffee on the trucks. As simple as it sounds, every step has its own challenges, and each step must be in perfect synch for the process to work.
It takes the right people, training, and dedication to make this happen. Challenging as this might be, we make it work and I get to learn something new every day about our people, products and processes, which fits perfectly with my curious nature.
From a manufacturing position, I can say that women in any type of manufacturing environment are rare and thus more valuable, even more so in leadership positions. Know your value, recognize that the qualities and experiences you are bringing are valuable and others can learn from them. Above all, empower others – do what you love and give it your all. It might not work out the first time, or the second or third, but you will make it work.”