A few weeks ago I was representing The Pink Boots Society and promoting our up-coming Bière de Femme Festival at a roller derby event when I was approached by a gentleman. I greeted him, and he immediately asked me, “Why should I care about what you’re doing? I like craft beer just fine, but what does it matter if the brewer is male or female?” I was a bit taken aback, but I believed his question to be honest and sincere. He really thought that women were just as represented in the brewing industry as men. He truly believed that we get paid equally for equal work, and that we make up something close to 50% of the workforce. He was sorely mistaken.
When I began my brewing education in 2014, I was one of 3 women in a class of 24 men. I was told that I couldn’t even do the work of a brewer because of the physical limitations of being female. I was told that having a beard was a prerequisite to entering my chosen course of study. Most of these doubts came from outside the industry, and I visited several breweries to ask them if these claims were to be taken seriously. Time and time again I was told that they were not, but warned that the work is very physical, and encouraged to look into sales or marketing if I wanted to work in the beer industry.
Today, I’m working fulltime as an assistant brewer and cellarman at Lonerider Brewing in Raleigh. I also bartend at The Glass Jug at night. I don’t know what my male colleagues make. I haven’t asked. I honestly don’t want to know, but I know that none of them have second jobs. I also know that while more women are entering the industry all the time that we are still underrepresented in the industry as a whole. I’m also painfully aware that we have it really good in North Carolina. I have befriended several women from other states that are treated far worse than I have experienced in my state. There are fewer of them in the industry, so they are far more spread out. We have fantastic education resources in North Carolina as well. Five community colleges and two universities have begun offering fermentation sciences degrees, diplomas, and certificates. This is how women are able to compete for the brewing jobs in this state. There is a lot of organic chemistry, microbiology, gas laws, and fluid dynamics to brewing on a commercial scale. Going in with a degree at least gets you a foot in the door so that as a woman, you can compete with the guys that have no education and no previous experience in the industry.
It is with this knowledge that the women of The Pink Boots Society of North Carolina came together to found the Bière de Femme Festival to raise scholarship funds for women. The Pink Boots Society is an international nonprofit that exists to assist, inspire, and encourage women beer professionals to further their careers through education. The Bière de Femme Festival will be held this Saturday at the Raleigh Beer Garden, with all the proceeds going toward the scholarship fund for North Carolina women pursuing careers in our industry.