Women brewers are speaking out against misogynistic and sexist behavior in the beer and craft industry

Screenshot of Instagram exchange.
A screenshot of an Instagram message between a woman and the brewer Brienne Allan.

  • An Instagram user asked women brewers to share their stories of sexism and harassment on the job.
  • Hundreds of accusations surfaced, forcing apologies and resignations from beer companies nationwide.
  • Women brewers talked to Insider about the reckoning and how they’re changing the industry’s culture.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Three years ago, Torie Fisher witnessed a man accost her wife at the Atlantic City Beer Festival. Fisher and her wife are brewers, but the man didn’t believe it.

“There’s no way she’s a brewer,” Fisher said the man yelled in the direction of her wife. He became “visibly irate,” she said, and her teammates had to talk him down.

Fisher served in the Army for 13 years before founding Backward Flag Brewing Co., a veteran- and woman-owned brewery, in 2015. She’s worked there since, along with her wife.

But male patrons and clients who enter the New Jersey establishment neither expect nor believe that Fisher’s an integral part of the business, she said, adding, “It’s never assumed that I’m the owner.”

“I’ve seen somebody come in, get a beer, and shake the hand of one of my bartenders. They said, ‘This is a great place you have here. You must be the owner,'” Fisher said.

She continued, “I got these big, burly guys working back there, and they’ll point to me and say, ‘Well, actually, she’s the owner.'” Fisher said the man replied, “I thought this place was veteran-owned.”

Fisher said that in the nearly six years that Backward Flag has been open, she and other women staff members have experienced sexist and demeaning comments like that one.

A chasm opens

After a brewer asked women on Instagram last week to share sexist comments they’d received from men while on the job, the brewing industry began to react to the widespread allegations of sexism and harassment.

Many of the submitted comments showed encounters similar to Fisher’s.

Brienne Allan, the brewer who asked Instagram users to share their experiences, posted a series of 10 stories highlighting the demeaning comments women brewers said they received daily at their jobs. She received more than 800 responses.

“Me, standing on top of a ladder, a guy from behind the bar, ‘Watch out for that glass ceiling up there,'” one user submitted to Allan’s call.

“The male brewers being professional brewers while I’m just an amateur brewer,” another submission read.

“OK, but where’s the person in charge here? You can’t be it, you’re a woman,” one comment said.

Other submissions detailed harrowing incidents of sexual harassment and assault against women working at various breweries.

“Owner of brewery would drink and try to kiss and grope his female employees on the clock – me included,” a submission read.

“Warehouse coordinator got drunk and told me how hot and sexy I was ‘with tattoos working those tap handles,'” a woman wrote, as seen in one of Allan’s Instagram Stories.

In direct messages to Allan, women called out specific breweries and named men who they said harassed female employees or created a toxic work environment.

After these stories began pouring in, a social-media user gathered about 200 accusations from Allan’s stories and saved them in a public Google spreadsheet, identifying by name the brewery where each alleged incident happened. The document also identified men accused of harassment and assault.

The document is not a comprehensive list of all the accusations and experiences women shared, and it’s unclear who created it.

The accusations have garnered so much momentum that major breweries have responded with apologies. And some men mentioned by name – such as Jacob McKean, the founder and CEO of Modern Times Beer – have resigned.

“I’m sorry that anyone has ever had to face harassment at Modern Times,” McKean said in a statement posted to Twitter. “No one should ever have to be traumatized at work, and it guts me that people have under my watch.” Modern Times, which has locations across the West Coast, was mentioned 18 times in the compiled list of accusations.

Beer and its connection to frat boys

In popular culture, beer is commonly associated with the trappings of masculinity, such as frat houses and football games. But the drink has a long history that involves women-powered capital and labor.

The first-known beer recipe hails from a Sumerian hymn dedicated to the beer goddess Ninkasi, fermented at the time for use in religious ceremonies. Other cultures also honored beer goddesses of their own and created beer dedicated to them.

In the Middle Ages, beer making was believed to be a woman’s work, a process that eventually evolved into a way to bring in extra cash to the household. That’s how the term “alewife” came to be.

Alewives were able to monetize beer and use the profits to support their families. But the Catholic Church, a deep and permeating influence during the Middle Ages, condemned alewives and alehouses, believing both to be extensions of witchcraft and out of bounds with common gender norms.

When the industrial revolution began, alewives slowed down their own beer-making operations because of speedier production methods. And in the mid-20th century, large beer companies such as Budweiser and Heineken began aligning their brands with images of “manliness.” These ads typically depicted housewives pouring tall, foaming growlers of beer for their husbands.

Since then, beer culture has largely been associated with men.

Cayla Marvil, the cofounder of Lamplighter Brewing Co. in Massachusetts, disagreed with the assertion that the drink isn’t for everyone. “Beer is an incredibly accessible beverage, but media does not depict it that way,” she said.

But Marvil is eager to turn that around.

“Breweries can be a really powerful place for social change,” she said. “There’s so much variety to it. It’s not just about crushing pints with your bros at the frat house or whatever it is.”

Marvil said that when patrons come up to her and tell her they don’t like beer, she can usually “find a beer that they’re going to enjoy.”

“I hope that it’s becoming a bit more exciting and accessible for everybody, but media does not depict it that way,” she said.

The masculine connotation that beer carries has a direct effect on how women brewers are treated.

Women brewers who spoke with Insider said they’re regularly asked by patrons whether they themselves enjoy beer or patrons assume that the women around them don’t enjoy beer.

Fisher, for example, said most of her brewery’s patrons are men, some of whom answer for their wives when staff members help with beer selections.

Torie Fisher at Backward Flag Brewing Co.
Torie Fisher at Backward Flag Brewing Co.

“They’ll bring in their wife, and they don’t even give her the ability to speak,” she said. “I see that so often – where I’ll ask the woman what she prefers to drink, and they like to chime in and answer for her: ‘Oh, she doesn’t like beer.'”

“I’ll end up just kind of ignoring them and talking to their wife, and start asking questions,” Fisher continued. “And a lot of times I will find a beer that she likes.”

The public reckoning is forcing breweries to change

On Tuesday, the Brewers Association, a craft-beer trade group made up of thousands of brewers and distributors, sent out an email obtained by Insider inviting its members to engage in a three-part webinar on harassment and sexism in the industry.

The first part began on May 27, and the webinar is expected to continue on the fourth Thursday of June and July. As part of the webinar, “participants will craft an action plan and learn how to handle a complaint and what an investigation process looks like,” the registration invitation said.

But women-owned breweries are not waiting around.

As women in the industry come to terms with their own experiences of harassment or sexism, they’re leading the charge and changing the breweries they own from the inside.

In light of the revelations, Marvil of Lamplighter is reevaluating the way her brewery does business.

From now on, Lamplighter plans to ask its distributors, vendors, and partners to sign statements saying they do not condone harassment, sexism, or misogynistic behavior in the workplace, Marvil said.

“We’re going to be more intentional about these partnerships, and we are now monitoring the news surrounding our suppliers and vendors,” she added.

“Clearly harassment and sexism are out there, and it’s much more prevalent than we believed,” she said. “We want to make sure we are not supporting or associating ourselves with what’s going on.”

Laura Dierks, the founder and CEO of Interboro Spirits and Ales in Brooklyn, is workshopping strategies to make her brewery a more inclusive and open space, she said.

She and other female colleagues have talked about beginning to openly address biases at work, such as when women are talked over in meetings or made to feel like their ideas aren’t as valuable as those of male colleagues.

“We’re going to be creating anonymous surveys and getting feedback at meetings with no names attached,” she said.

Dierks for a long time kept silent about her experience with harassment and sexism while on the job.

A prospective business partner once asked Dierks how she planned to balance work and motherhood. Her business partner, Jesse, at the time had smaller children than she did, but he was never asked such a question, Dierks said.

“How does a woman answer that question, sitting next to someone who also has children but happens to be a man and will never be asked that question about how good a dad he’ll be?” Dierks said. “Never in a million years, right?”

Interboro Spirits and Ales
Interboro Spirits and Ales in Brooklyn.

Because the man who had asked the question was a prospective business partner, Dierks, though dumbfounded, answered the question: “Yes, my husband is very supportive of me and helps me out at home. I have an au pair. I have somebody to help me with the children in the house.”

Questions like that aside, Dierks has experienced something far more sinister. Right before the pandemic hit, Dierks was at a conference in Miami when a man pushed her into a bathroom and tried to assault her, she said.

Dierks, 53, believed she would be safe from assault because of her age. “‘Why would anybody do this to me?’ was my thought,” she said. “I felt like [harassing behavior and assault] wasn’t going to happen to me ever again because I’m not young, and thinner, and all these things. Yet it did.”

Dierks said she didn’t tell anyone except her husband about the incident. She added, “Because we’ve been taught to not talk about these things.”

“What motivates me now is the courage that many younger women than me have,” she said, when asked why she chose to speak up now.

She added: “I didn’t have that courage when I was younger. And I think that the power in numbers is there. The connectivity we feel to each other, and the support that we provide for each other as women, is much stronger in a public way than it ever was before.”

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The investigators looking into sexual harassment claims against Gov. Cuomo have wide, sweeping powers and are paid as much as $750 per hour

cuomo scandals
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

  • The investigators reviewing sexual harassment claims against Gov. Andrew Cuomo are being paid as much as $750 per hour.
  • Attorney General Letitia James hired the independent investigators after several women came forward with allegations Cuomo.
  • The Daily News reported that the investigators have wide, sweeping power to conduct the probe freely.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The investigators leading the probe into the numerous sexual harassment allegations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are being paid as much as $750 an hour.

According to the New York Daily News, which obtained internal documents through FOIA requests, the investigators have wide, sweeping powers to conduct the investigation.

Attorney General Letitia James hired out the independent investigators after several women came forward with allegations that the governor made inappropriate and sexually harassing remarks or advances toward them.

Former Acting US Attorney for New York’s Southern District Joon Kim and employment discrimination attorney Anne Clark are in charge of spearheading the probe.

Their offices are “authorized to utilize any of its resources as it deems appropriate to carry out” the investigation, the documents say, according to the Daily News.

Both firms have been retained for a period of at least six months, the Daily News reported. But James is able to extend the contracts as she deems necessary.

Their work comes at a hefty cost, documents obtained by the Daily News reveal. Top-level partners working on the investigation receive as much as $750 per hour. Even mid- and lower-level partners are raking in large sums of money to carry out the probe. Mid-level partners, for example, get $575 per hour, and junior-level partners $500. Senior associates will receive $450 per hour and junior associates $325, the Daily News reported.

The investigators will prepare and deliver weekly progress reports to First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy. At the end of their investigation, they will produce a written report with all their findings and conclusions, the Daily News reported.

The investigation was prompted in part by state and federal lawmakers coming out in support of one.

Since December, Cuomo has faced several sexual harassment accusations. The first one was from a former aide who in December said she had been sexually harassed by the governor “for years.” At the time, Lindsey Boylan, who worked for the governor between 2015 and 2018, did not divulge specific information about the circumstances and declined to speak to journalists.

But in February, Boylan broke her silence in a Medium post, said Cuomo had touched her inappropriately and kissed her without her consent.

Cuomo’s office has repeatedly denied her claims. “As we said before, Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false,” press secretary Caitlin Girouard said in a statement.

Since Boylan’s accusations surfaced, at least 10 other women have come forward with similar allegations of their own against the governor.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Investigations of workplace harassment or sexism claims have intensified under ‘#MeToo scrutiny’ but that doesn’t guarantee they’re legitimate

Empty office coronavirus
  • There is no one standard way to conduct a workplace investigation, experts told Insider.
  • But generally, they must include an impartial investigator who interviews all parties involved, quickly secures all evidence and is able to reach “reasoned” conclusions.
  • The focus on workplace investigations heightened amid the #MeToo movement, urging boards of directors to better screen their companies and nonprofits for issues.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The process is familiar: A complaint or allegation is lodged or publicized. Calls for action are made. The accused party makes a statement and announces plans to launch an investigation.

That was the case earlier this month when McDonald’s announced it would look into sexual harassment claims brought forward by its employees. And when the MLB released a statement saying it would investigate claims of inappropriate behavior by former Cleveland Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway. As well as when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo referred sexual harassment allegations brought against him by multiple women to the state’s attorney general.

These internal and third-party investigations are generally designed to determine the validity of serious allegations in the workplace.

But there are many ways they can be invalidated or illegitimized, according to employment law experts and workplace investigators. Some even say companies and organizations sometimes conduct sham investigations that might amount to nothing more than a PR stunt.

Here’s what we learned:

Most workplace issues don’t get reported because of fear of retaliation.

Oftentimes an investigation is launched when an employee contacts an HR rep or reports an allegation to management. That’s the case for about 90% of employers, according to Jared Pope, HR attorney and founder of Work Shield, an employer strategy company that conducts workplace investigations.

Still, about 75% of workplace issues don’t get reported because of a fear of retaliation or other negative repercussions, Pope told Insider.

“Members of management teams have an obligation to ensure that employee complaints are taken seriously and properly investigated to bring a halt to misconduct and apply appropriate remedies,” said Natalie Ivey CEO of HR development firm Results Performance Consulting and author of “How to Conduct Internal Investigations.”

Other times, investigations sprout after allegations arise in media reports, such as Insider’s report that found top male leadership at United Way had engaged in misogyny for decades.

“It’s a toss-up,” Pope told Insider. “Most issues don’t get reported due to fear and those that get covered in the media are those that were once raised to a supervisor, manager, or HR (human resources), but not acted upon or dealt with appropriately in a prompt and reasonable manner.”

Just “a fraction” of companies actually follow up on anonymous allegations, said Juliette Gust, president of Ethics Suite, a workplace misconduct reporting channel.

The goal of all investigations is to determine the credibility of misconduct claims. But credibility is hard to quantify and depends on a lot of factors like how public and exhaustive the results are, according to experts who spoke with Insider. And the investigation’s credibility also depends on whether companies and organizations take allegations seriously as soon as they are disclosed.

Additionally, employers and third-party investigators can often employ different protocols, leading to inconsistency in how investigations are carried out.

There is no one way to conduct an investigation.

But experts generally agree that a valid investigation must meet the following parameters:

  • There must be a known system in place that employees feel able to use to come forward with any allegations.
  • Investigators must quickly collect and preserve any physical and digital evidence that pertains to any allegations.
  • Investigators are expected to interview all complainant(s), witnesses, and subjects.
  • After collecting evidence, investigators must analyze it and reach reasoned conclusions.
  • The investigator must be impartial and well-trained.

“While there are no nation-wide codified standard practices governing how internal workplace investigations are conducted, there are standard practices,” said workplace investigator Lorene Schaefer.

Such standards often derive from guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency that investigates workplace sex discrimination and retaliation.

For publicly traded companies, the Justice Department has a document outlining the steps to carry out a proper investigation, Gust of Ethics Suite said. Private companies, however, don’t have a single method to turn to. And variables like geographic areas and type of entities can also alter the course of an investigation and its results.

“So while there are some standards for preparation, collection and analysis of evidence, reaching conclusions and presenting findings – there are going to be some differences in how investigations are conducted even within different parts of the same organization because of those variables,” Ivey told Insider.

There’s an argument in favor of enforcing set standards to conduct an investigation. Pope, for example, said a standard “by which to judge others” would be helpful and a solid step in allowing “employee’s voices to be heard” more efficiently.

Gust told Insider she believes it would “not be realistic to expect all organizations to adhere to the same codified set standard for investigations.” Different organizations and companies, she said, have different resources and skillsets, which complicates the notion of a set standard across the board.

Ivey said it’s far more important that a well-trained investigator handles the case than it is for there to be a codified system in place.

Without well-trained investigators who are able to remain impartial, collect documents effectively, and analyze evidence, the results of an investigation might not be complete or present an accurate portrayal of internal affairs.

In the event that an investigation is carried out unjustly or without adhering to these general standards, afflicted parties can often seek recourse in state and federal courts, Schaefer said.

The ‘#MeToo scrutiny’ intensified workplace probes.

According to Schaefer, boards of directors across the country felt “intense scrutiny” resulting from the #MeToo movement, which galvanized a culture of speaking out against sexual abuse and misconduct.

The “scrutiny” came as investors alleged “Board of Directors were aware of executives’ alleged harassment and misconduct and failed to take action or disclose it,” Schaefer said. In nonprofits, the same pressure ramped up.

In turn, boards of directors began to more heavily question whether they provide sufficient oversight “to mitigate and manage claims of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, retaliation,” she said.

“This #MeToo scrutiny of boards of directors and their response to the #MeToo movement is not going away,” Schaefer said. “If anything, I predict the spotlight of scrutiny is going to get brighter and more intense with more investor/donor activism.”

A 2020 report published by the National Women’s Law Center and the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund found that 72% of people who experienced harassment in the workplace were retaliated against when they spoke up. Of the people surveyed who reported the harassment, nearly two in five said their perpetrators had not been held accountable.

United Way in February released the results of an investigation into allegations of misogyny and retaliation from former employees.

Three women who spoke up about sexual harassment said they faced retaliation for doing so in a November report from HuffPost, and more former employees came forward to Insider in December with allegations that the nonprofit’s culture of misogyny spanned decades.

United Way CEO Brian Gallagher.
United Way CEO Brian Gallagher.

The investigation carried out by a third-party law firm at the behest of United Way Worldwide found “the employment decisions made with respect to the three employees at issue were found to be based on legitimate, non-discriminatory, and non-retaliatory reasons.”

Neither United Way nor Proskauer Rose, the law firm that conducted the investigation, returned requests for comment asking whether the investigation hit the standards outlined by these experts.

Shortly after its release, United Way’s CEO Brian Gallagher resigned. But the women who had come forward with the allegations to Insider said they were never contacted to participate in the internal investigation.

That could be for several reasons, investigators said. An organization might deliberately choose not to contact former employees because they “may be in an adversarial position against the company,” Gust said.

It could also just be a public relations stunt, Pope said.

Workplace investigations that do not contact complainants generally have little merit and are “suspicious,” Merrick Rossein, an employment-law consultant and professor at the CUNY School of Law, told Insider.

“If the people who made the complaints have not been interviewed by this third party, then you can say there was no real investigation,” Rossein added.

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