Over a Barrel: Women Still Lacking in Beer Industry C-Suite

About 30 years ago when Barbara Groom was launching her brewery, Lost Coast in Eureka, Calif., she went to a local hardware store to get plumbing equipment. While waiting in line, a store employee took time to explain to a male customer how to use the equipment he was buying. When it was her turn to ask a question, the employee answered but then told Groom she should send her husband in next time.

At the time, Groom was among the first women in the U.S. to launch a craft brewery. Fast forward three decades and the president and founder now is one of only four women occupying the highest-ranking position among the top 50 craft breweries in the country, according to Bloomberg Law research and analysis.

Even large breweries, such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, Molson Coors Brewing Co.,Constellation Brands Inc., and Heineken Holding NV., have no woman CEOs. That will soon change as Heineken recently announced that Maggie Timoney will be serving as the CEO of its U.S. division starting Sept. 1.

The beer industry has long been male-dominated, and the lack of data related to its workforce is notorious, sources told Bloomberg Law.

Small breweries have about 135,000 full and part-time jobs, according to the Brewers Association. The association doesn’t collect statistics on gender or ethnic diversity, Julia Herz, the group’s craft beer program director, told Bloomberg Law.

“Within the brewing community we can always do better and should do better when it comes to involving women and minorities in leadership positions,” Herz said.

Blending Beer and Gender Diversity

Diversity matters and the lack of it can hurt a company’s financial performance. Firms with more gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, according to a report from consulting firm McKinsey & Co. Inc.

In 2017, the expanding craft beer industry counted more than 6,000 breweries in the country that added $67.8 billion to the economy, Brewers Association data shows. If it’s true that gender diversity leads to better financial returns, some beer companies could be missing out on potential profits without a more gender-balanced workforce.

The other U.S. craft breweries with female leaders are New Glarus Brewing Co., Alaskan Brewing Co., and Odell Brewing Co. Women who have occupied the CEO position in craft breweries in the past include Kim Jordan of New Belgium Brewing Co.—the fourth largest brewery in the country—Laura Bell of Bell’s Brewery Inc., and Cheryl Collins of Ninkasi Brewing Co.

So why aren’t there more women leaders in the beer industry?

For Teri Fahrendorf, the founder of Pink Boots Society, an organization created to inspire, encourage, and empower women in the beer industry, one of the reasons for the dearth of women beer professionals is the lack of female role models in the field. “Sometimes you need to see a woman in a leadership position to know that you can become one,” Fahrendorf said.

Since Pink Boots Society launched in 2007, Fahrendorf has seen more women interested in a career in beer, and they’re looking for ways to advance their careers within the industry.

It also could be the “men only” culture that has been slowly dissolving within the last 30 years.

Stories about men behaving badly in the brewing industry are common. In fact, beer blogger Jeff Alworth on his Beervana blog collected many women’s harrowing experiences for an article, “Sexism in Beer: The Experiences of Women.” Alworth points out that when they aren’t being harassed, women also are “marginalized, ignored, and belittled in ways intended and not.”

On her Pink Boots website, Fahrendorf reminds the world that beer in ancient Egypt was made almost exclusively by women, and in Baltic and Slavic mythology, “it was a woman—the goddess Raugutiene—who provided heavenly protection over beer.”

“And while it remains a predominantly male industry, women have been part of the craft beer renaissance since its first stirrings in the early 1980s,” Fahrendorf writes.

Crafty Efforts

Large and smaller beer companies, along with the Brewers Association, have worked to increase the number of women in the industry. In 2014, a team of Stanford researchers surveyed more than 2,500 breweries and found that 21 percent had at least a woman in a top role, including CEO, head brewer, and brewmaster, accordingto the association. Last year, the Brewers Association announced the creation of a diversity committee to address the issue.

Heineken’s Timoney represents a breakthrough because she is the first woman to serve as chief executive of a major beer supplier in America, the company’s External Communications Director Bjorn Trowery told Bloomberg Law.

Women make up 40 percent of Heineken’s workforce, and the company’s current executive management team is 50 percent female, Trowery said.

With over 18,000 workers in the U.S., Anheuser-Busch also has a number of female talent on its management committee, Vice President of Communications Gemma R. Hart told Bloomberg Law.

Half of Anheuser-Busch’s brewmasters across its breweries are women, and more than half of its marketing team are also women, Hart said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carmen Castro-Pagan in Washington at ccastro-pagan@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joel J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com