Does craft beer taste better if it’s brewed by men?

Craft beer tastes better if you believe a man brewed it, a study into the role gender plays in our judgement of product quality has claimed.

Jaega Wise, head brewer at London-based Wild Card, is one of a handful of high profile female brewers in the UK. (Photo: Miles Willis/Wild Card)

Researchers at Stanford University have found that products which are made by women are “disadvantaged” if those products are stereotypically linked to men, such as beer.

“Our research suggests that customers don’t value and are less inclined to buy traditionally male products if they think they’ve been manufactured by women,” Shelley J. Correll, a researcher at Stanford University said in a blog on the university’s website. “There’s an assumption that your woman-made craft beer, screwdriver, or roof rack just won’t be as good.”

Gender bias is a well-documented phenomenon in both academia and the office. A study in 2014 published on Fortune found that, on average, women’s employer reviews contain far more negative comments then men’s, while an online tool launched in 2015 found that university students are far more likely to criticise female lecturers than their male counterparts. Now, the Stanford Researchers believe that the same applies to consumer goods.

Correll and colleague Sarah A Soulle carried out three online experiments to complete their study. Initially, they surveyed 150 people, both men and women, and asked them to rate 50 product categories from a large online retailer based on their association with femininity and masculinity.

The study, first published in November 2017, found evidence of the “pervasiveness” of gender association, with products such as craft beer being closely aligned with masculinity, and cupcakes leaning more towards femininity.

Finally, the researchers asked a further 200 volunteers to rate the quality of two products, cupcakes and craft beer, based on two different types of packaging each. The producer’s names were changed so that they could see whether there was a difference in quality perception based on whether they were made by a man or woman.

If a craft beer label displayed a woman’s name, the quality assessment was lower than if the name was male. However, when it came to cupcakes, the researchers found no change in quality assessment.

“Together, the two studies provide evidence of an asymmetric negative bias: products made by women are disadvantaged in male-typed markets, but products made by men are not disadvantaged in female-typed markets.”

However, this bias was seemingly eliminated if the beer in question also included an award.

“When we told participants that a woman-brewed beer had won an award, they rated is just as highly as if it was brewed by a man,” Correll said. “It seems that awards vouch for the competence of the woman.”

In addition, volunteers who had a keen interest in craft beer were largely unaffected by the gender bias issue.

“As our research finds, the more expert you are about a product, the less gender bias affects your thinking. For businesses, there’s a key imperative here to build leaders’ expertise in things like employee review and appraisal to minimise gender stereotyping,” says Correll.

Three ways to beat sexism in the beer industry, according to Wild Card brewer Jaega Wise

Meet the photographer putting women in beer on the map

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