More women are finding their place in the beer industry (think: brewers, sales reps, your average drinker). Still some beer brands continue to use scantily-clad women and insulting stereotypes to peddle their wares to the masses.
Local and national groups (see: Pink Boots Society and Boston Area Beer Enthusiasts, aka “BABES”) that host community and educational events for women working in the beer industry and craft beer fans alike help empower the female segment. However that doesn’t mean women who amass a great knowledge of beer aren’t snubbed.
Martha Holley-Paquette, assistant brewer at Somerville’s Pretty Things Beer says her biggest challenge is that people won’t take her seriously. She co-owns Pretty Things with her husband, head brewer Dann Paquette, and notes that people don’t often see past her role as wife to realize she also runs the business. “I’m often ignored in initial meetings with people in the industry. Sometimes people literally speak over me. It’s nuts,” says Paquette.
While the craft beer division has been making strides compared to the beer industry as a whole, there’s still a helluva lot of work to do.
Recent statistics suggest that women account for 25 percent of total beer consumption by volume, and 37 percent of craft beer consumption in the US. That’s up from just last year, and it has zilch to do with beer marketing’s insulting double entendres or the cringe-worthy pinkification of the product.
Actually, any marketing that directly targets women has bombed. Women are pushed pink, fruity, or low-calorie brews (see: Chick Beer) because they’re still predominantly viewed as non-beer drinkers.
“When ‘chick’ themed beer marketing pops up it’s quickly renounced as anti-feminist and offensive,” says Caitlin Jewell, marketing director, co-founder and co-owner of the Somerville Brewing Company. Dumbing women drinkers down to the lowest common beer denominator doesn’t validate their existence in the marketplace, and frankly, it’s incredibly patronizing. Jewell notes, “While offensive to some, bikini marketing isn’t likely to go away,” at least not instantly. “As the mother of two boys, I’m hopeful the next generation will find this approach so banal that it’ll fade away as uninteresting and irrelevant.” she says.
Despite the fact that certain beer brands have little understanding of their female customer base, the view from inside the industry looks decidedly more egalitarian than ever before. As the demographic of craft beer drinkers changes, more women will fill roles like head brewer or brewery owner.
Take Megan Parisi, head brewer at Worcester’s Wormtown Brewery. Parisi says she’s never experienced any form of sexism from her male peers. “[The challenges] come from the public or other folks in the industry who assume that as a woman working for a brewery, I must be in sales or marketing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with working in sales or marketing, but the fact that it never crosses their mind that I could be the brewer is the problem,” says Parisi.
The truth is women simply want to enjoy beer in an environment that doesn’t overtly ignore or objectify them.
“There really is only one way to get rid of the notion that beer is for men, and that’s for women to increase in number as beer employees and as beer drinkers,” says Paquette, “And I think that’s happening, big time. So I’m not worried about the future. I’m just a little frustrated by the present.”