craft brewing

Women Take On Sexism, Harassment in Craft Brewing Industry

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Mariah Billian and Abby Bibens say they don't fit the craft brewing stereotype.

“The poster child for the craft beer industry is really like the white man in a beard with a flannel," said Billian, manager at the Outer Lights Brewing tap room.

“It's really been kind of a 'bro culture', a 'frat culture' in certain breweries and certain communities," she said.

She and Bibens are trying to break down more than stereotypes.

Bibens says it really comes down to a lack of awareness among too many people who work in the industry, and too many of the customers.

“I think it's a lot of, they haven't put themselves in other peoples' positions," the Still Hill Brewery tap room manager said, "and that's where education can help benefit that."

Education is now in the works.

As co-leaders in an organization created to assist, inspire, and encourage women in the fermented beverage industry, called the Pink Boots Society, they say they've teamed up with the Connecticut Brewers Guild to capitalize on an emerging movement that has been building ever since a woman in Massachusetts posted online about her experiences of sexual harassment working at a Salem brewery. That set off a wave of comments from women all across the country sharing similar stories.

Some of those responses included accusations against Connecticut Valley Brewing Company in South Windsor.

In the wake of those allegations the company posted on social media that it fired its Sales Director last month and also said they were working to ensure something like this doesn't happen again.

We spoke with the owners of the brewery multiple times asking if they had a comment for our story, but so far we have not heard back.

One of the biggest issues that Bibens and Billian see in Connecticut, is that most breweries are small businesses.

“If it's the owner or management that's the perpetrator it's really difficult to find a place to go where you feel comfortable talking about this," Billian said.

Over the next few months, the Pink Boots Society hopes to have independent human resource services in place for victims, to not only report incidents, but start the process of correcting them through workplace education, and reconciliation, Billian said.

“People are more likely to respond better when you're not kind of attacking them from the get-go, and aggressively onto someone. You invite them to join you. It's the togetherness and the acceptance, and 'you know what?' 'You said this thing in the past.' 'Here's how you can do better.'"

Bibens adds, it's not just those who've been marginalized who will benefit from a healthier craft brewing workplace.

“That's what we're all about, is building our community; strengthening the beer industry in Connecticut."

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