Following allegations of widespread sexism in the US brewing industry, Australia’s Independent Brewers Association has sent a strong message to the industry here.
In a letter signed by general manager Kylie Lethbridge, chairman Pete Philip and the entire board, the IBA pledged to be part of the solution.
The industry body said it has a ‘zero tolerance’ policy to any behaviour that is “discriminatory, sexist, racist or in any way fosters an unsafe working environment”
“We aim to create a safe and inclusive culture based on these objectives and encourage equality and fairness as core values for all businesses operating in the beer community and supply chain,” the statement said.
The issue started two weeks ago when the Instagram account @ratmagnet, belonging to Brienne Allan, production manager at Notch Brewing in Salem, Massachusetts, was flooded with stories from the US industry primarily with allegations of sexism, assault and harassment in the workplace.
Claims that the brewing industry is a ‘boys club’ are not new. But the fallout from the stories posted to Allan’s account recently have led to high-profile US brewers facing action or stepping down, including Jean Broillet of Pennsylvania’s Tired Hands Brewing, whilst others like Shaun Hill of Farmstead Brewery have faced criticism for their evasive responses to accusations against them.
The Australian industry has not come away clean either, with the Crafty Pint publishing a story regarding an instance of sexual assault authored by an anonymous source, highlighting Australia’s dismal track record for sexual assault convictions.
According to recent statistics from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, reported sexual assaults rose 10 per cent in 2020 to around 15,000, but only 2 per cent of those led to convictions.
While there has not been the flood of stories in Australia that was prompted by Allan’s callout to women in the industry in the US, the IBA has said that it is committed to helping the industry do better.
“The IBA aims to lead by example through creating an organisational culture of safety and inclusion and we support our members to foster modern and diverse workplace cultures by providing resources, education and training to ensure the health and wellbeing of all employees and volunteers in the brewing sector,” it said.
“As a result of these most serious allegations, the IBA Board, Team and People Project Group are working on our own policy statements as well as developing new practical resources to more proactively support our industry in this regard.
“In the interim, please know the IBA is here to support you and we encourage all our brewery and trade members to be examples of leadership by actively and publicly implementing policies that ensure that the Australian brewing industry is a safe, inclusive and diverse environment for everyone,” the IBA said.
In addition, in a message to its members, the Pink Boots Society commended the bravery, compassion and collective action of women in the industry, and has set up webinars on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.
Australian brewers have not been silent on the issue either. In a post to Facebook, the co-owner of South Australian brewery Prancing Pony, Corinna Steeb, said the business takes a very clear position and objects any behaviour which is derogative or fosters an unsafe working environment.
“Our brewery is a female-led brewery,” Steeb said. “I have worked in the Craft Beer Industry for nearly 10 years PLUS 35 year prior to that in many other Industries.
“In my working life, I have been subjected to disrespect, racists comments, discriminatory behaviour, being talked over and/or subjected to sexual harassment, in particular during my younger years and during times when I was in subordinate positions.
“I had to learn to fight, to catch out such behaviour publicly and to let people know that it is not ok to treat women in this way.
“While this affects predominately women, I have also seen such behaviour directed towards men. Over the years, I have adopted a stance of support my co-workers to call out such behaviour and make sure that it is clearly understood that this behaviour is not acceptable, EVER.”
Steeb said that sexism and other discriminatory issues and harassment were widespread, and urged business owners and industry leaders to be a part of the solution.
“Discrimination, inequalities, misogynist behaviour, or sexual harassment is not a Craft beer specific issue rather, a general issue, stemming from a lack of respect, lack of education and understanding and on a corporate level, lack of leadership,” she said.
“As business owners and leaders, it is our duty of care to create a culture of safety, inclusion, and equity and to encourage all employees, contractors and our customers to adhere at all times to behaviour that is respectful, regardless of race, gender or belief.”