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8 March 2016

The beer industry is no longer the boys’ club it used to be

Today, 8 March, is International Women’s Day. But before male readers switch off, let me point out that gender diversity is about more than the quota of women we employ. It extends to the market we want to address, the products we offer and how we present our industry to the outside world – important issues to all of us concerned with the success of the beer category.

In terms of the market, a recent McKinsey report suggests that advancing women’s equality around the world could add $12 trillion to global growth by 2025. If women were to participate equally with men in the world economy, that figure could rise to $28 trillion – an impact equivalent to the US and Chinese economies combined. As I’ve often said, it’s vital we take account of the huge potential market that women represent.

As for our products, we know that women tend to like traditional beer less than men, but they also favour different styles. Women in the Netherlands, for example, are keen drinkers of classic specialty brews such as autumn boks and abbey beers.

We also know that the new wave of small and micro-breweries is bringing more women into the beer category. In the US, 21 to 34-year-old women account for 15% of total “craft” volume, while a survey by Consumer Edge has shown a rising percentage of women naming beer as their favourite alcoholic beverage. That’s probably linked to the growing number of so-called craft beers, in that women in the survey were more likely than men to be attracted by new brands and flavours.

The trend is reflected in the UK where the number of women trying ale jumped from 14% to 34% in the three years to 2015. Those figures come from the Campaign for Real Ale whose membership is now 22% female.

Thirdly, diversity is about breaking down the assumption that brewing is a man’s world. As well as our own Group Chief Brewer, Katherine Smart, there’s been a proliferation of women brewers in recent years, meaning that beer is no longer the boys’ club it used to be.

In our business, the technical disciplines still lag behind commercial and support functions in their gender diversity. That’s why there’s a drive in our breweries to showcase career opportunities for women. Among other initiatives, women students are being invited to a brewery open day at Kompania Piwowarska in Poland (taking place today), to brewery tours in the Canaries and to ladies’ nights at Grolsch in the Netherlands. These, plus the introduction of more flexible working hours are all part of opening up the industry to more women.

So, while there’s been progress, there’s still work to be done.

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