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Massachusetts woman starts craft beer industry reckoning

by | Aug 12, 2021 | Employment Law |

There are some common trains of thought when considering the craft beer industry. Some may contemplate the abundance of great hop-forward New England IPAs out there as well as dark, complex stouts, fruity sours and other unusual types. Another may involve burly men with beards happily standing around brewing equipment in a garage. The latter speaks to the origins of the craft beer movement, one where many brewers and brewery owners started as homebrewers.

Many would agree that craft beer has changed the beer landscape, but this immerging industry brings some baggage with it. According to a 2019 survey by the Brewers Association, only 7.5% of brewers were women. It also found that 37% of non-production or non-service (taproom) at breweries staff were women. The scarcity of women in the industry is complicated by its origins. Still, it’s now clear Brienne Allan set off a reckoning when she returned to work as a production manager at Notch Brewing in Salem.

She posted on her Instagram account on May 11, asking: “What sexist comments have you experienced.” This was in response to having her professional credentials questioned twice on her second day back at work because she was a woman.

Allan received more than 1,000 responses from other women in the industry who complained about the harassment, misogyny and abuse they endured while working in breweries. Allan’s Instagram account went from having 2,200 before the May 11 post to upwards of 60,000 less than a month later. She subsequently collected the comments here.

The reckoning

Exhibiting or tolerating this behavior has quickly impacted breweries cited in the posts and others. It led to several top brewers and managers stepping down, with hundreds of others issuing statements promising change in their work environment.

The Brewer’s Association recently issued a community call to action as well.  In part, it read that it “condemn(s) any act of assault, harassment, violence, bigotry, discrimination, or inequity.” They also encouraged member brewers to implement anonymous employee reporting tools, share HR resources with the association and review past seminars regarding harassment in the workplace.

It’s not done yet

The craft beer community has grown exponentially over the last 20 years, enabling many to turn their hobby into a profession. Once they started serving alcohol to the public and hiring employees, they were a business, and all companies must follow the laws regarding the treatment of employees. If they did not know it then, they do know it now.