Earlier this year, I attended a 5-day continuing education course at Sterling College entitled “The Art & Science of Brewing”. There were 17 students comprised of 3 females and 14 males, plus two male professors. I did notice the gender imbalance, but I was not surprised by it. It seemed similar to my early career on Wall Street which was, similarly, male-dominated. I spoke with Heather Jerrett from Sterling College recently with regards to the upcoming summer brewing class at Sterling. She indicated that again, the class appeared to be the same. She asked me about my thoughts “as a woman getting into the brewing business so far, maybe something that inspired you or a role you have seen that is not filled”.
I started thinking about the question, and couldn’t help but think back to my first career in finance. More often than not, I was the only female at meetings, with clients, or even smoking a cigar at a closing dinner (well, puffing…and it wasn’t good). In any case, I found the situation to be entertaining at times. Men would address my subordinates and ignore me until a decision was required, at which time they would realize my role. But to me, it wasn’t about gender. It was about ability, skill and interest.
The parallels are significant at this time in the beer industry. Females are here to stay. We are gaining ground as brewers, bloggers, industry experts, owners and consumers. This is an industry that is ripe and ready for females to grow and prosper in whatever way they wish, whether it is as an entrepreneur or employee. But there are many aspects that need to evolve with the times in this industry as it has in most other industries already. It may just be that the brewing industry is a bit behind when it comes to women.
More often than not, when ordering a beverage, I am offered wine or some fancy mixed drink. Beer is touted to the men in the group, but not to me. I mean, it’s 2017 now and the craft beer industry is no longer plagued with the blue collar image of the old days (oh, and not so great beer). So why is it that beer remains more of a “guy thing” at all? I believe, it is a matter of time before gender is no longer relevant.
In 2016, Nielsen’s “Craft Beer Style Preferences Start and End with the Customer” illustrated that “males responded with a higher preference for 75% of 37 different craft styles” and “men account for close to two-thirds of overall beer consumption”. The table from that article reveals underlying beer consumption preferences women in the styles listed below. This is where craft beer has made inroads with the female consumer. It’s not surprising that a little creativity goes a long way with us!
But is creativity enough? A 2016 Gallup poll says no. In fact, the results suggest a trend favoring wine as women’s preference in alcohol over the past 15 years.
So, what does it take to bridge this gender gap, IMHO? I view the issues with alcohol choices to be based upon the following factors:
- Health/calories – does beer make you fatter than wine?
- Image – wine is classier and beer is for dudes?
- Selection – lighter, fruitier flavors
- Role models – let’s see more females enjoying beer in a feminine setting
There is a plethora of study relating to alcohol and health. Let’s skip over a comparison of health benefits, and go straight to rough math of kCals. An “average” 12 ounce serving of beer contains 150 kCal, while an “average” 5 ounce serving of wine contains 100kCal. With the expansion of “session” and light beers, the kCals in a 12 ounce serving can be reduced to 100. Sounds like there are ways to balance out the calories.
What’s the first thing you think of when you think of “beer”? Is it NASCAR, or some rowdy group of construction workers hitting the dive bar? I feel that the image of the average beer drinker needs a reworking. Why not focus on glassware such as a stemmed Teku? That’s the direction craft beer has been heading, with classier servings rather than some hefty mug. How’s this?
Obviously, from the chart shown above, women prefer lighter, fruitier varieties of beer. It has really only been a decade or so since the craft beer industry has been booming, along with it, creative offerings. Perhaps time and education will build upon itself as the image of beer, along with education and marketing, showcase beer in a different light.
Finally, women can, and do, succeed in the brewing and beer related industry. Each year, women make inroads as brewers, owners, writers, experts in the beer industry. It is, as Wall Street was in the 1980’s, a male-dominated field. With time, that, too, will change.