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Why Aren’t There More Women Leaders in the Craft Beer Industry?

It’s no big secret that certain professions in our society are highly coded by gender. One might even say most professions are like this. Women are underrepresented in STEM fields and men are underrepresented in nursing, for example. 

One field where this divide is particularly striking might come as a surprise — in the world of craft beer brewing. When you look at the numbers, the lack of women leaders in breweries is pretty unbelievable. In fact, according to one 2014 study, only 4 percent of all brewmasters in the United States are women. 

Misogynistic culture

This isn’t just a numbers problem, either. Other studies show that industries or workplaces with a “boys’ club”-type attitude are more likely to tolerate or even encourage a culture of sexism or harassment. In his beer-focused blog, for example, one industry pro, Jeff Alworth, spoke with many women in the beer industry who talk about their experiences with sexism at work, from the subtle to the openly hostile. On the relatively mild end, this sexism appears when men at conferences assume any woman there works in a sales or marketing department. But on the more sinister side, sometimes this kind of culture leads to outright harassment and even assault. 

Post-#MeToo, industries across the board are taking steps to fight back against a culture of sexism and misogyny, but that doesn’t mean the problem has been solved. Especially in fields where a culture of masculinity is particularly entrenched, changing attitudes and behaviors can be slow going. 

Fighting sexism

In the beer industry, one way to confront this kind of sexism is simply to encourage more women to get into the profession. Luckily, there are dedicated events, groups, and other outreach programs whose goals are to make breweries more inclusive and diverse. 

For example, the popular digital publication on all things beer, Hop Culture Magazine, has hosted a Beers Without Beards festival in New York City for the past two years. The festival is explicitly women-focused, intended to celebrate all women in the beer industry and highlight notable achievements by women brewmasters. 

The Pink Boots Society is an organization comprising women leaders in the beer industry, whose mission is to support other women brewers. The organization has chapters all over the country, and they host educational events and seminars as well as award scholarships to Pink Boots Society members. 

Another beer organization focused on supporting women is Barley’s Angels. While the Pink Boots Society focuses on professionals in brewing, Barley’s Angels’ mission is to encourage women to gain greater appreciation and understanding of beer through events all over the world. According to the organization’s website, “Barley’s Angels provides women with a comfortable environment to explore and learn about craft beer while allowing publicans, brewers, and restaurateurs to grow their female customer base by hosting Barley’s Angels safe, friendly events.”

Shifting the cultural tide

Beer may still be viewed culturally as something inherently “masculine,” but this perception is changing (even if not as quickly as many would like). Big cultural shifts like this take time, but there is plenty of reason to believe that society is moving in the right direction. The number of women brewmasters and brewery owners is growing, and tolerance for misogyny and sexual harassment in the workplace is no longer culturally accepted. 

History shows that women were the world’s first brewmasters, so maybe it’s time they take back control. 

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