Sexism is Bad for Business – What Are We Going To Do About It?

On Wednesday 24th January 2018, Manchester Beer & Cider Festival’s trade session hosted the debate Sexism is Bad for Business – What Are We Going To Do About It?

Below is the video of the debate.

Apologies for the sound quality – we have done our best to remove as much background noise as possible but some speakers are difficult to hear.

Below are the notes on the debate compiled by Christine Cryne and Katie Wiles. These will be circulated to CAMRA’s National Executive and beyond.

The Panel

The panel consisted of:

  • Christine Cryne – Beer writer, taster, master trainer, former CAMRA National Executive member. First female to run CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival – Christine will be leading the debate.
  • Barry Shaw – Barry is the Ops manager of Beerhouse’s Group which has six pubs including the renowned Stalybridge Buffet Bar, West Riding Refreshment Rooms and Sportsman, Huddersfield
  • Annabel Smith – Annabel is an ex publican who is now a freelance Beer Sommelier, writer, consultant, trainer and public speaker. She is a founder member of Dea Latis, group of brewers, beer tasters, publicans, writers and marketer aiming to challenge women’s ideas about beer and present it to them in a way that encourages them to taste it.
  • Jennifer Smith – Jennifer is the co-owner responsible for sales at Brewsmith Beer (Ramsbottom), a 10 barrel brewery which started in 2014. Jennifer is also Women’s Officer for Bury North Labour Party
  • Katie Wiles – Katie is our youngest panel member. She is a Beer Blogger, CAMRA Communications Manager and a Member of the Guild of Beer Writers.
  • Jaega Wise – Jaega is a scientist by background. She is one of the founders and is the Head Brewer of Wild Card Brewery in London. She has recently received coverage for being outspoken on sexist beer labelling.


The scene was set by saying sexism is bad for business because:

  • It makes people both men and women uncomfortable.
  • They will leave the premises and not return or not buy the product if the labelling offends
  • Each complainant on average will tell 10 others. Word spreads.

According to Dea Latis only 13% of women in the UK drink beer. The average across the rest of the world is 20%. Sexism in the UK may be one reason for this.

The panel were asked for examples of sexism and these covered areas such as:

  • Inappropriate comments and touching of female bar staff
  • Being asked whether they want a pint or a half where male companions were not
  • Being asked if they drank pints
  • The assumption that women don’t know about beer
  • Women shouldn’t be drinking strong beer
  • Beer is an inappropriate industry for women

The panel and meeting were asked to consider four questions:

  • Why do we think sexism still occurs?
  • Do we think the situation has improved in the last 10 years?
  • What are the barriers stopping further improvements?
  • What can we do about it?

Why sexism still occurs

Both the panel and the meeting came up with a number of issues, which can be summarised as:

  • Unconscious bias
  • Lack of awareness
  • The ‘old brigade’ thinking being sexist is okay. It was noticed that the attendance at the meeting was significantly younger than the average person at the Beer Festival that evening.
  • Advertising is aimed at men so perpetuates the myth that beer is only for men. However, Dea Latis has shown that modern beer advertising does feature women, but most people still think of the advertising of the past when they think of beer advertising.
  • Beer advertising mostly done by men
  • Women not empowered enough, don’t tell people (particularly management) it is occurring
  • People not calling it out
  • Lack of leadership from organisations such as CAMRA, BBPA and SIBA
  • Too many misogynists in the industry
  • Lack of females on boards and in breweries to provide the female voice and balance
  • Barrier of engaging with people “not in the room”
  • Sexism isn’t a priority for the industry
  • Legacy of “lad-ish” behaviour enforces stereotypes

Has the situation has improved in the last 10 years?

About a quarter of the audience thought that the situation was the same as 10 years ago but the majority thought it had got better.  A few of the audience thought that the issue has gotten worse because 10 years ago sexism was very blatant and “in your face” and easier to call out. Today it is much more subtle and you risk being called a “snowflake” or “PC-culture gone mad” if you complain.

The barriers stopping further improvements

Some of these were the same as to why sexism is still occurring but there were a number of other points raised:

  • Sexism used to be more blatant; now more subtle.
  • Unconscious bias
  • Men not engaged. The topic is considered ‘PC rubbish’
  • Both men and women afraid to speak up and challenge; accepted as the norm, desensitised
  • Lack of continuing commitment from organisations such as CAMRA, BBPA and SIBA. Danger of ‘Flavour of the Month’ then dropped; no ongoing support
  • Lack of training and education
  • Women not being encouraged to go into brewing industry; 50% of the talent being ignored.
  • Lack of role models and promotion
  • Women spoken for, not listened to.
  • Different women view what is sexist differently so difficult to get consensus
  • Issues with the media – scaremongering articles about “what men think of women who drink pints” and others that steer women away from beer drinking.

What can be done about it

The ideas suggested were:

  • Staff at pubs, beer festivals, events etc need training:
    • Awareness
    • How to deal with it
    • Knowing that if they raise an issue, they will be listened to sympathetically and it dealt with. It was noted that the person to whom an issue is raised must be chosen carefully.
  • Pubs should be welcoming to all
    • Pub users (and staff) must know that they can report an issue and it will be dealt with.
    • Pubs (and breweries) should an Equal Opps and complain process on their websites.
    • Pubs should have zero tolerance policies and publicise this
  • Boards should put Equal Opportunities on their Board agenda regularly to ensure the issue is considered, practice and performance reviewed and not lost
  • Education establishments that provide training in the beer industry should go to schools to encourage girls to go into the beer industry.
  • Sector organisations should get involved and do more:
    • CAMRA should:
      • Train and educate its volunteers, particularly older ones
      • Take the attitude of a pub into account when judging their Pub of the Year. It should be a criterion on the judging form and judging should include at least one woman
      • Encourage more female role models including considering having a quota of places reserved for women on the NE and local branch level
      • Discourage the male dominated environment at beer festivals
      • Ensure Equal Opportunities is prominent in their Internal Policy Document
    • SIBA and BBPA should
      • Encourage more female role models
      • Promote the female brewers, pub managers and other women in the industry to raise the profile that beer is not just a male career
      • Encourage their members to have more women on their boards
      • Encourage their members to take Equal Opportunities seriously and promote their policies
    • Find a way to get breweries to sponsor female sports teams in a similar way to they support male teams e.g. cricket and rugby
    • Individuals should be encouraged to call out their friends when they do something inappropriate
    • Come up with ways to keep the issue ‘on the agenda’ and keep talking about it – don’t let it fade!