If there’s still any question as to whether women are finally staking a serious claim in the beer industry, one need only look at the work of Pink Boots Society. Founded in 2007 by Teri Fahrendorf, the organization was created to “to assist, inspire and encourage women beer industry professionals to advance their careers through education.”
To say they’ve broken barriers is an understatement. There are now chapters in Spain, Hong Kong, New Zealand, across the United States and there are no signs of membership slowing down. In 2017, Pink Boots hosted the first annual conference in tandem with the group’s ten year anniversary right here in San Diego. This January, the second biannual conference in Austin, Texas sold out.
“For me, the conference was amazing,” says Laura Ulrich, small batch brewer at Stone Brewing and President of the Pink Boots Society. “The conference itself was jam packed with amazing speakers with tangible information that everyone could walk away with and implement or put into action right away.”
Even with the group’s growing momentum, it’s still rare to see a room filled with 200+ women beer professionals. Conversely, most people wouldn’t even think twice if the gender roles were flipped. But despite that contradiction, the group is working to shift the conversation by calling on the best and brightest in the industry. (Men are allowed to attend the conference, but the space is specifically geared towards women.)
Speakers included a keynote address by Julia Herz (Craft Beer Program Director at the Brewers Association), Averie Swanson (head brewer at Jester King Brewery), Dionne Roberts (editor of Rocky Mountain Food Report), Emma Peters (production associate at Blacklands Malt), Jessie Smith (lab technician at Saint Arnold Brewing Company), and many, many more. San Diego speakers included Ulrich, Amy Spackman (beer ambassador at Karl Strauss), and Candace L. Moon, Esq. (the “craft beer attorney”). Representatives from Second Chance, Duck Foot, Societe, Benchmark, and more were also in attendance.
“It was nice to break out of the San Diego bubble even though we have a ton of resources here,” says Spackman. “It was also overwhelming being around everyone, definitely got misty eyed a few times feeling the power and the community of everyone together.”
Topics covered everything from social media best practices to trademark law. But one of the biggest issues discussed is the plight of women facing harassment and discrimination at work, which labor and employment attorney Jana Woelfel covered in her talk “Stop #MeToo from Becoming #Youtoo: What You Need To Know Regarding Sexual Harassment in the Workplace”. Spackman recounts the sobering discussion.
“She had some powerful slides of the struggles women have overcome to just be in a safe workplace free of harassment and discrimination. The very recent dates she featured were eye-opening and maddening. [It took until] 1978 [before] an employer could not deny you employment because you were pregnant and or of child-bearing age. [By] 1982 being ‘hot’ was no longer an acceptable job description. WHAT!? So much rage that so many reports of sexual harassment and discrimination get ignored and how most every person (male and female) have had some kind of this happen to them.”
Clearly, there’s still plenty of work to be done. But PBS isn’t resting on its laurels; Friday, March 8th is International Women’s Day, and Pink Boots’ Collaboration Brew Day will unite members from all over the world by using an exclusive hops blend provided by YCH, who will in turn donate $3 from every pound sold to Pink Boots Society for education and programming.
Nichole Sykes, secretary of Pink Boots and chapter liaison based in San Diego, estimates around $90,000 will be raised just from the YCH partnership. And then there’s the 300+ breweries worldwide who will donate proceeds, which help fund education efforts and planning for the 2021 conference, in an undetermined city.
“We have a few chapters fighting to host the next one!” laughs Sykes.