An Activist Beer Organization with a Radical Goal

Illustration by Ryan McAmis

“I was so wrapped up in everything, I didn’t see that I needed this as much as I do,” says Mariana Schneider of Gangsta Ladies of Wort (GLOW), the global activist organization she launched last year.

GLOW’s members create collaboration brews, share skills, knowledge and insights. Most importantly, it amplifies and advocates for women, people of color, the LGBTQ community and other marginalized people in the beer industry.

Schneider, a native of Brazil and an assistant brewer at Danish craft brewery Amager Bryghus, moved to Copenhagen in 2018. Though she loved her job, she felt isolated and battled depression, anxiety and homesickness. She began to question her role in the beer community and the ways that the industry impacts its members.

“The more burned out I got, the more I understood I needed to find something a bit more meaningful to give me the stamina needed to continue doing my job,” she says. “I kept thinking about how, with the tools I had access to, I could promote change.”

Schneider began to speak to women in the industry and listened to their difficulties and frustrations. Schneider sought to build a remote “dream team” of female beer professionals that included brewers, packagers, salespeople, bartenders and more. She says she received a “massive positive response” from those seeking a progressive, female-identifying beer community.

Women from a dozen countries, including Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany and Denmark, came to Copenhagen to collaborate on a special GLOW beer.

“Having them all gather under the same initiative is also an inspiration in its own,” says Schneider, who saw it as an opportunity to share expertise and experiences. “If I didn’t feel like what we are promoting was reason enough to push this, just the professional/cultural exchange made possible by this network we are building would be reason enough to do it.”

GLOW’s first beer, Long Before You Were Born, is a dry-hopped West Coast-style IPA brewed at Amager. Though Schneider oversaw the brewing process, the recipe, as with all GLOW decisions, was done by vote. The beer launched simultaneously at 21 bars in Copenhagen, as well as Helsingborg and Gothenburg in Sweden.

Of course, GLOW aims to do more than brew great beer.

“One of the goals we had with [Long Before You Were Born], but also with GLOW as a whole, is to make the scene seem less intimidating,” says Schneider. “To this day, women are often uncomfortable with the idea of going to a craft beer bar by themselves, or asking questions in brewery tours with a higher male percentage, or even applying for jobs as they face resistance towards their presence.”

The Underground Spaces Where Drinking While Female Was a Radical Act

In a 2019 survey conducted by the trade group Brewers Association, only 7.5% of breweries employed women in brewing roles. Meanwhile, 54% of service positions at breweries are occupied by women. And brewery ownership is further divided along gender lines. Of the 54% of breweries owned by people of a single gender, 96% were under male ownership.

Women are also undervalued in beer, according to researchers from Stanford University. Last year, 200 consumers were surveyed about products deemed stereotypically “male” and “female.”

“With craft beer, when consumers believed the producer was a woman, they claimed they would pay less for the beer, and they had lower expectations of taste and quality,” Àine Doris wrote Stanford Business Review Magazine.

This valuation can extend to employees. An entry-level brewery employee might make roughly $22,000 to $29,000 a year in San Diego, and even in the role of brewmaster one might expect to only earn close to $27,000 if they have less than one year’s experience, according to data collected by Jeff Alworth’s blog, Beervana (based on information from Glassdoor and Payscale).

However, taking into account gender pay gap data, a female entry-level brewery employee might expect to earn 11% less than a male counterpart.

Many women and marginalized people worry that to air concerns about uncomfortable work environments or conditions they deem unfair may damage their chances of getting a position in a very competitive job market.

“Speak up, and you may risk not finding work again; take legal action, your name will likely be stained; quit, and you may struggle before finding something else,” says Schneider. “Since all of this started, I have gotten messages from friends and strangers telling me their stories, from unequal pay to harassment.

“The one common point these conversations had was the fact nobody is really comfortable coming forward because, and I quote, ‘Nobody wants to be the bitch nobody will ever want to work with.’ This is a sad reality.”

GLOW at Amager Bryghus / Photo by Olle Thorup

Though diversity and inclusion in the craft beer industry has been a frequent talking point for some time, progress has been slow. That’s not for a lack of work, however. One of GLOW’s predecessors is Pink Boots Society, an international beer membership program for women.

“I hear a lot of people say, ‘They should do such and such,’ when wishing for a social improvement in some area of life,” says Teri Fahrendorf, founder of The Pink Boots Society and Malt Innovation Center Manager at Great Western Malting. “But who is ‘they?’ They is us. The world only changes when individuals commit to change, when they get out of the cart, get behind the cart, put their shoulder to the cart, and push it up that hill.”

Inclusivity is good for business, too.

“We believe diversity equals creativity, which equals a better product, which equals positivity, which equals diversity,” says Jane Frances LeBlond, founder of London’s award-winning, all-female Mothership Brewery.

“The more women who are drinking beer, the more women will be interested in the industry and want to work in it,” says LeBlond. “The more women who are working in the industry, the more women customers there will be as women will feel represented in the beer industry.”

Ting Su, who cofounded Eagle Rock Brewery in Los Angeles and runs its Women’s Beer Forum, agrees.

“In environments that are traditionally male-dominated, women’s voices tend to be drowned out or dismissed,” says Su. “Having women-specific groups or creating environments within these male-dominated scenes is important to offer women the opportunity to engage more.”

Organizations like GLOW offer female beer professionals opportunities, education and some safety, but Schneider also aims to provide counseling and financial aid to empower marginalized workers.

She has an unusual end goal.

“My hope is for GLOW to be extinguished as soon as possible,” she says. “And by that, I mean that I hope through initiatives such as ours… change is promoted in such a way that we will see big differences in internal and external relationships, leading to a point that inequality is not an issue.”

Until that point, organizations like GLOW will light the way forward.

Published on April 9, 2020
Topics: Beer