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Women in Business – The View From Here

By Hollie Stephens

We at Equity Brewing are proud to be the first women owners of a brewery here in Oklahoma! As the craft beer industry evolves to include more women, we believe that change and growth is a cause for celebration. At the same time, we think it is important to acknowledge that there is still a long way to go when it comes to gender equality in business. In the latest post in her “Heritage and Disruption” blog series, Hollie Stephens considers the current state of women in beer and in business, and how we can move the needle.

Starting a business isn’t for everyone, but everyone should have an equal opportunity to consider whether it is right for them. As things stand, in the USA there are many more men who are business owners than women, and whilst change is moving in the right direction, a lot more needs to be done to further improve upon the opportunities for women who wish to become entrepreneurs. According to findings from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, women owned approximately 20% of all employer businesses nationwide.

The existence of positive role models is important in encouraging new people from traditionally disadvantaged demographics into entrepreneurship, which is why elevating the achievements of a broad swath of different business leaders is of paramount importance. Here in Oklahoma, the Significant Women in Agriculture program is a great example of what can be done on a local level to celebrate and encourage businesswomen whilst upholding the heritage of an important industry for the region. A collaboration between ODAFF (Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry) and Oklahoma State University, this program seeks to spotlight and honor women nominated by their peers, who are making a significant impact on their local communities through their work in the state’s famous agriculture industry.

As in business across the board, the role of women in the brewing industry is growing, but there is still a lot of room for more positive change. Whilst brewing was historically most frequently done by women, men dominate the industry today. A 2014 Stanford University study found that just 4% of breweries in the USA had a woman brew master or head brewer. Studies like this can be disheartening to see, and it is important that we stay focused on improving the position of women in the beer industry. As a starting point, it is critical that businesses are mindful of potentially alienating women and other minorities. It’s important to call out sexist branding which might objectify women, as beer writer and activist Lily Waite points out in this article.

Ensuring that women feel welcome in breweries and taprooms is about more than simply avoiding discriminatory marketing material. Since women are typically the primary caregivers in families, creating spaces in which children are welcome is important in opening beer industry spaces up to women, as beer writer Beth Demmon points out in this piece. Further, Beth argues, breweries could set a standard for similar industries to follow by enacting a minimum paid parental leave policy. This could make it viable for more women to consider a career in brewing.

At Equity, we are passionate about inclusion and cultivating a welcoming space for everyone, particularly minorities and those that may not feel safe everywhere. Our owners also run The Third Space, a welcoming and inclusive workspace created with the goal to cultivate an inclusive local community. We believe that becoming a successful entrepreneur begins with having access to spaces in which to grow. We invite you to visit us at Equity Brewing to be a part of our mission to open the world of craft beer to all!


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