International Women’s Day

The women who are leading in beer

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

International Women's Day: Beer and Brewing, in association with AB InBev
International Women's Day: Beer and Brewing, in association with AB InBev

Related tags: Women

Beer is not a man's world and is a drink of equals, able to break down barriers of all kinds. Here five women with high profile beer careers explain how they got to where they are, as well as the barriers they have encountered along the way.

The stereotype of beer being a man's drink, unfortunately, remains in pockets of society.

However, as this feature, supported by AB InBev, shows, these barriers are fading away.

Name: Jane Peyton

Jane Peyton

Job title:​ Founder of the School of Booze

How you got there:
I started my own business in 2008. School of Booze is a drinks education and events consultancy.

Where you see yourself next:
I recently became an accredited Pommelier (cider sommelier) and am working with a group of cider advocates to encourage consumers to #RethinkCider.

For most people, cider is the apple-flavoured, sweetened alcopops that dominate the market. They do not know that real cider is 100% fresh apple juice. The Rethink Cider​ movement aims to change people’s often negative perception of cider as loony juice that people drink on park benches.

Biggest issue for women in our trade right now:
Getting their voices heard and being given speaking opportunities at trade events. How often do we see all-male panels discussing subjects about the drinks and pub business?

Women work in the drinks and pub business, they drink alcohol, they make it, they go to pubs, they have relevant insights and opinions. Why are they so poorly represented in speaking roles?

What, if any, experiences of sexism in the workplace have you encountered?
None in the trade but a few silly comments from males at events I have hosted. Such as ‘Are you the stripper?’ and ‘What do you know about beer, you’re a woman’.

And most women who know a lot about beer, will have had men trying to explain beer to them. It happens quite often to me in pubs from male staff and customers.

Your advice to others who want to achieve what you have:
Find a job that you love and you are good at because then you will be happy to put in lots of effort. Also education! Never stop learning and increasing your knowledge.

Name: Lauren Soderberg

Job title:​ Beer Guru for New World Trading Company (NWTC)

How you got there:
I started my career for NWTC as assistant general manager in the Botanist, Alderley Edge, where I stayed for a year and a half. I then transferred to Deansgate when we opened that unit.

It was great to get involved with a new opening seeing it right through from interview stages and training, right through to opening the unit.

Lauren Soderberg

While working here, I decided that perhaps the traditional management path was not the way I wanted my career to go.

I spoke to my managers, who were really supportive, and decided to go back to bartending and waiting.

During this period, the Beer Guru at the time was putting together a company-wide qualification called the Master of Beer programme.

Because of my keen interest in beer, he asked if I would be the first person and essentially ‘guinea pig’ to go through the process.

I jumped at the chance, and after an essay, exam and blind tasting, I was officially the first Master of Beer in the company.

After a few more months, I decided to leave NWTC to gain a bit more experience working for a smaller brewery bar in Manchester.

After six months here I got a call from NWTC to see if I would like to go back in the position of beer trainer and, obviously, I said yes!

I was in this position for around 10 months, when my boss, the Beer Guru at the time handed his notice in and I was asked to step up into his position. This brings me to where I am now!

Where you see yourself next:
I love my job and I am really happy here, it’s pretty much the dream job! Eventually I would love to get into brewing, and take my experience in the hospitality industry to open my own place.

Biggest issue for women in our trade right now:
Although I think that views are changing on women in beer, there still seems to be some men that don’t take women in beer seriously.

There are certain places where sexism still exists; whether it is comments made or certain pump clips or beer names that are still incredibly sexist.

There are some amazing women in the industry who are doing amazing things for women in beer, such as Melissa Cole and Jaega Wise.

What, if any, experiences of sexism in the workplace have you encountered?:
I have seen men at beer bars specifically waiting to be served by a male member of staff even though a female member was free.

I have also heard a customer say to a colleague that she probably knew nothing about stouts and dark beers because she obviously wasn’t a dark beer drinker.

As it turns out, her favourite style of beer were dark beers and you should have seen his face drop when she started talking about the different ones we did.

Personally, I have had a few surprised looks when groups of men have turned up to day an ale masterclass, and its myself holding it.

I have people on a stag party ask me if I was the stripper when they turned up once. The things that really get me are the comments people make, that they don’t realise they are sexist.

I was talking to a group once about being a woman in the industry and one of the men piped up and said ‘even the head brewer of our local brewery is a woman’.

I don’t think he realised how that sounded when he said it. The addition of the “even” as if it was shocking. The one that really got my back up was when a group said to me ‘you obviously know a lot about beer but do you even drink it?’.

I was shocked any the question and when asked what he meant he said ‘well you look like the kind of person that would go up to the bar and ask for a Chardonnay’. I genuinely couldn’t believe it!

Your advice to others who want to achieve what you have:
It sounds really cheesy but I would say just go for it! I have always been up front and honest with the company I worked for and that led me to where I am today. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance from people.

If you have a passion for something there should be nothing stopping you going for it, and if you are lucky enough to make your passion your job, it makes Mondays a lot better.

Name: Lotte Peplow

Lotte Peplow

Job title:​ Brewers Association Representative UK/Europe

How you got there:
Back in the mid-2000s I was handling the PR and marketing for Freeminer, a ‘microbrewery’ in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.

The owner of the brewery, a one Peter Thomas, travelled to the US frequently on holiday and business, and struck a deal to begin importing Rogue Ales to the UK.

In 2004, the Brewers Association set up the Export Development Programme with a grant from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).

In the knowledge that Rogue Ales was being exported to the UK, the Brewers Association asked Peter Thomas to recommend someone in the UK who could help with PR, media work and setting up a launch event for the Brewers Association Export Development Programme in London. Thomas recommended yours truly, and the rest is history.

Where you see yourself next:
I am enormously proud to work for the Brewers Association in the UK/Europe and consider it a huge honour and a privilege. I have every intention of carrying on working with the Brewers Association for as long as they want me to.

I love judging beer and my ambition is to judge on the world stage at either Great American Beer Festival or World Beer Cup.

Biggest issue for women in our trade right now:
The assumption that beer and the brewing industry is a male preserve and that women are not being taken seriously.

What, if any, experiences of sexism in the workplace have you encountered?:
I’m glad to say that as ‘an older woman’ in the today’s beer industry, sexism is a lot less prevalent than it used to be say 20 to 30 years ago. Back in the day, things were an awful lot worse.

Your advice to others who want to achieve what you have:
Education and training is absolutely crucial. In order to compete in a male-dominated industry women must know their stuff inside out.

There are courses and accreditations schemes out there – take them, pass them, gain credibility and hold your head up high. If women want to walk the walk, we must know how to talk the talk too. This is essential.

Budweiser brewer celebrates International Women’s Day with balanced senior team

AB InBev women in beer
AB InBev's strong beer team (picture caption below)

With the arrival of Paula Lindenberg as President of AB InBev UK & Ireland, the brewer behind global brands Stella Artois, Budweiser and Corona is celebrating the milestone of a 50/50 equal gender split of its senior leadership team.

In a number of new appointments and promotions announced at the beginning of the year, Lindenberg takes the helm of the UK business, while functions from IT and Tech Sales to Convenience, Wholesale and Category Management are now all held by women.

Lindenberg, who has been with AB InBev for the past 18 years in a number of roles in its Latin American and Global Offices, including most recently Vice President of Marketing for the Brazilian business, says her advice to other women in the industry is: “Choose a company that allows you to be yourself, find meaning in your job and put lots of energy into it.

"And always be open, open to learning, open to new ideas, different people and to getting feedback.”                        

From left to right: Sharon Palmer, Head of Trade Marketing; Laura Salway, Commercial Controller; Laura Quintero, Head of Tech Sales; Kat Vickery, Head of IT; Laura Diamond, Commercial Director Ireland, Scotland and Cider; Alexis Berger, European Director for Stella Artois; Paula Lindenberg, President for UK & Ireland; Jessica Markowski, Sales Director for Wholesale and Convenience; Irini Komodikis, Head of Category Management; Claire Richardson, Head of People; and Tatiana Stadukhina, Marketing Director.​                                                

Name: Georgina Young

Job title:​ Head brewer, Fuller’s

How you got there:
My passion for brewing started during my student years at King’s College London. I studied Biotechnology at undergraduate level, before completing a Master’s degree in Brewing and Distilling at Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh.

My career began at Smiles Brewery in Bristol, where I learnt from the floor upwards – starting in the lab before progressing to shift brewing.

I then moved to Brewing Research International (now Camden BRI) to run the pilot brewing facilities there for five years before joining Fuller’s as production brewer in April 1999.

Georgina Young

I have worked in all areas of the brewery (brewhouse, fermentation and tank farms) on shift. After returning from maternity leave in 2003, I took up the role of brewing manager.

Where one of the first challenges was to install a new fermentation block and then recreate the Gales’ beers, following Fuller’s acquisition of Gales brewery in Horndean, Hampshire.

Following my second maternity leave, I took a break from brewing and became a science teacher for four years at a comprehensive school in Richmond, Surrey.

It was not long before the draw of Fuller’s brought me back to the Griffin Brewery in Chiswick and, in October 2013, I rejoined Fuller’s as the brewing and packaging manager.

I recently co-ordinated the installation of a new Crossflow membrane filter and a CBS system (continuous beer stabilisation system).

Where you see yourself next:
Obviously there is a great deal of change coming at Fuller’s and I’m looking forward to playing a key role in the next phase in Fuller’s history.

Biggest issue for women in our trade right now:
There’s no doubt that doing a job that often involves hard, often physical work and shift patterns is very difficult if you want to also balance it with having a family.

I’m not sure thought that you can ever change the nature of it – which is why I chose to work elsewhere while my family needed that attention. Thankfully, I had built up enough skill and reputation to come back and to progress further.

What, if any, experiences of sexism in the workplace have you encountered?
In the old days, there used to be a lot of page three pictures in the mess room, for example. I never asked for them to be taken down – but they quickly disappeared.

Your advice to others who want to achieve what you have:
Honestly, your sex is irrelevant. You just have to do the best you can with passion and enthusiasm. Brewing is all about multi-tasking – which is why female brewers are so bloody good at it.

Name: Alexis Berger

Alexis

Job title: ​Marketing director, Stella Artois Europe

How you got there:
I actually started my career on the digital agency-side working on several categories, including beer.

However I didn’t feel I had enough ownership of the business strategy of the brands I was working with, so I got my MBA at IE Business School in Madrid.

After graduation I got in touch with AB InBev as they were recruiting digital experts into their global headquarters in New York City and the rest is history!

I’ve been with ABI five years now on the Stella Artois brand, four years of those in global and the past year based here in London managing the European business.

Where you see yourself next:
Beer is such a dynamic category – the brands, the people and, of course, the brew itself.

From a marketing perspective there is so much opportunity for us to shape culture and create the spaces we want to see in society that that are inclusive, open and honest.

My goal is to ensure that we are leveraging the power of our brands to drive positive change and shape the legacy they leave behind.

Biggest issue for women in our trade right now:
I think it is an understanding that these aren’t “women’s” issues – these are everyone’s issues to address.

We need allies that understand the challenges that face women in our category to help us educate and resolve the things that drive inequality and non-inclusive environments.

At ABI we recently launched our Women in Beer group exactly for this reason – to discuss the internal & external issues around women’s participation in beer amongst all walks of people – and start meaningfully addressing them together.

What, if any, experiences of sexism on the workplace have you encountered?:
Sexism doesn’t always have to feel grand – it can be as simple as being referred to as ‘girls’ – unintentionally demeaning our position.

However, as we start bringing even these small set-backs to light we will start creating the environments for everyone to be on equal footing.

Your advice to other who want to achieve what you have:
If you want something, go for it. If it feels impossible, even better. And surround yourself with allies – friends, family, mentors – who will support your decisions no matter the outcome.

You may not always achieve exactly what you wanted, but if you don’t try you’ll never know.

The AB InBev view: leading the way in equal opportunities

AB InBev logo

As the world’s leading brewer, we work with a huge mix of people every day, from our growers in the field to data specialists working on new innovations in the beer industry; from our long-serving brewmasters, with decades of experience, to graduates learning the trade. What unites them is the ability to progress at the speed of their talent.
  While the brewing industry has typically been male-dominated, we are proud that half of our UK senior management team and graduate intake are now women. Through our focus on hiring those better than ourselves, developing talent and rewarding achievements, as well as providing an environment where everyone can thrive, we will continue to ensure we have a diverse mix of people to represent and champion the beer industry.
  This is present throughout our business. In the hiring stage, we are developing our apprenticeship programmes to bring more people in from different backgrounds and we give unconscious bias training to everyone within our company responsible for recruitment. We offer flexible working, mentoring and training and enhanced parental leave to support our employees wherever they are in their career or their life stage, as well as cross-functional promotions to make sure the best within our business can reach their full potential. And when it comes to our beers, we are committed to promoting our brands in a balanced way. Beer is a great social equaliser, it’s incumbent on us to be inclusive.

Related topics: Beer

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