This spring the Brewer’s Association, the national group that represents small, independent beer brewers took a stand some felt was long overdue: They came out against derogatory beer labels, issuing official guidelines on how to avoid demeaning advertisements. But for many women in the industry, beers with names like Double D and Leg Spreader (which had buxom women on the labels to match the names) are more than just provocative branding. They reflect what they feel are the problematic gender dynamics that remain part of their world.
A May article in The Guardian explored how female-owned breweries are working to eliminate sexism, and Julia Herz, the program director for Brewers’ Association in the US, said sexist incidents are “rare bad examples in a much larger sea of good.” But for many women in the industry, these post-gender breweries feel like exceptions. Working in mostly-male environments can mean isolation, unequal treatment and lack of support for female employees. Laura Palmer, the Oregon market manager for 21st Amendment Brewery, jokes that the main issue is “everybody sucks.” On sales calls, for example, Palmer says she’s treated differently than her male coworkers, which can range from being ignored to flirted with to blatantly harassed.
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“You see female sales reps expected to be experts in wine and beer, while dudes are only expected to know beer,” says Palmer. “So women have to work twice as hard, and they get less respect and get paid less." Then, there’s the issue of infrastructure. Women who wish to file complaints about male higher-ups often have no one to turn to—smaller companies rarely hire HR representatives.