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Is gender equality in beer moving forwards if men aren’t listening?

Equality in beer is in the spotlight, but despite inclusivity talks and events being open to all, attendance is still primarily from women. Jessica Mason reports on the concerns.

The issue of inclusivity was raised at the beer inclusivity event Summer Hop, which was held in Harrogate last week, and hosted by Women On Tap.

Inka Kosonen — who has completed research for her PhD thesis titled ‘Making the British craft beer industry more inclusive: A pragmatist inquiry into gender inequalities’ — described the challenges currently faced by women in the beer industry, including a lack of representation, unequal power dynamics, and the need for more research.


Kosonen explained that “it’s quite a messy situation”, and that “solutions proposed to help more women into the industry is a great start”, but she also added that “for women, this does not mean that they have equal power”.

During her talk, Kosonen emphasised the importance of mentoring but identified how new narratives to promote gender equality and create a more inclusive industry were still needed to gain a better share of female voice in already established male-dominated beer businesses. She lamented: “It’s great that we’ve got the female networks to support, we have a commitment to mentoring and mentoring helps, and knowledge, but this doesn’t necessarily change any of the structural problems.”

According to Kosonen, while researching her thesis she discovered “many participants felt that when they came into the industry they were made to feel insecure” and yet highlighted how “as they gained more knowledge, they gained more confidence and that changed”.

But, she added: “We don’t want everyone to have to spend two years working on establishing that confidence when they shouldn’t have to in the first place. We have to do something about that.”

Sanitary bins

One area Kosonen insisted was still being overlooked in terms of gender equality is the availability of basic sanitary bins in workplace toilets. For breweries and beer businesses, she shed light on how the consideration that these are basic female needs that are oft overlooked.

Kosonen explained: “In the workplace or at your brewery, where there are toilets, are there also sanitary bins? If not, that is illegal. It is not just about meeting the minimum.”

At the end of her discussion, Kosonen said that while compiling her thesis she had acknowledged that there was the need for continued research and solutions and that as an industry we must not just focus on attracting women to beer, but also to elements that put women off working in the beer industry. This, she said, was a systemic problem on the inside of beer businesses and not just in beer marketing. In her terms she stated: “We have to focus on employees, not just consumers”.

Key takeaways

Kosonen concluded that her research collected some key takeaways for the sector to focus on.

She said: “We have to target all these various applications and then think about empowering women, because that’s the problem in the industry. We also have to think beyond their [beer] consumption.

“There’s plenty of research on their consumption, but we also have to focus on employees, not just consumers. We need to think about people who work in the industry and spaces for those professionals, so that we’re not only having emails where we are talking about gender equality, or having a talk, but doing something about it.”

Kosonen said to a room, which was predominantly made up of women, that “we need to take a few steps ahead about inclusion beyond gender too”.

She concluded that “it’s not only about employing women, we have to be inclusive for all and be gender inclusive. We have to continue to find more solutions and learn from what we’ve already done”, or things would not change.

She suggested that debates about gender equality were stuck in an echo chamber, unheard by the male majority and stated: “Otherwise, we are just a minority speaking to other minorities”.

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