Barry Beerhouses blog – ‘why is sexism bad for business and what are we going to do about it?’
In the week where the Professional Darts Corporation decided to stop walk on girls for the dart players and Cloudwater continued to split opinions with the dodgy branding on their latest collaboration, project sexism has never been higher on the agenda.
Last week I had the pleasure to sit on the panel for the discussion at Manchester Beer Festival which asked ‘why is sexism bad for business and what are we going to do about it?’ This debate coming after many issues at the festival last year and a year of criticism for CAMRA, prompting them into issuing a statement in which it highlighted that it would not condone any of its members found to be using sexist images or slogans and condemned any discriminatory behaviour.
When the issue is highlighted online or on social media there never seems to be an end of commentators who throw in ‘it doesn’t hurt anyone’, ‘it’s just a bit of fun’, ‘PC gone mad’, or ‘it’s only a silly name on a pump clip’. Is it? Really? Is it PC gone mad that staff are judged on gender rather ability? That staff are abused because of gender? I don’t think so.
So why is Sexism bad for business?
Prior to the discussion I asked many of my well trained female staff, including my female managers (5 out of 6), as to what level of abuse they received and how often. Every single one of them had examples of the discrimination they faced almost every week ranging from men asking to be served by a man that knows about the beer, their knowledge being dismissed as they were women, to downright disgusting sexual remarks. This is not right, it is putting people off coming into the trade, it is making good staff leave the trade and one of the many reasons sexism is bad for business.
Beer, in the time I have worked in the industry (a long time!), has generally been a boys club. Men drink beer with a small white wine or fruit based drink for the lady, as the joke goes. Men were the brewers & sales reps, whilst the girls were in the office, big brands aimed solely at the men and joked that a bottle of sherry was overdoing for the Sheilas. This lazy stereotyping and marketing does nothing for either beer or the pub trade and will only hasten its demise. It doesn’t make the pub welcoming or inclusive – it puts off more than just the 50% of the female population. Not appealing to over half of your possible customer base is definitely bad for business.
So what are we going to do about?
Pubs have a duty to be inclusive, train their staff well and understand their customers. We have to challenge up the supply chain to brewers or organisations if behaviour by their staff or the marketing is not acceptable or discriminatory in any way. We have to look after our staff and challenge customers who are happy to be discriminatory or worse to our staff, that behaviour cannot be accepted. We also have responsibility to promote positive behaviour and highlight the good that is done. It is a problem, just because the majority of people haven’t encountered it much in their life doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, without action it will continue or get worse.
It is a subject that needs tackling and talking about as it not going to improve in silence. The stance of CAMRA has changed and this can only be for the better, but it has to go further, be part of the revitalisation project and address every single incident that is done in the name of CAMRA. Other trade bodies should also make a stand and a statement because sexism is clearly bad for business. Our business, my trade, can only improve by being a welcoming and inclusive industry for all.
I can’t speak for brewers about their branding or marketing decisions but just a note to them: five of the six people that make beer purchasing decisions for us are female, over 60% of our staff are female and our pubs are inclusive to all so the chances of selling us beer with rude, crude or sexist pump clips is zero and I’d say that’s bad for their business.