Suffolk breweries move towards diversity in the wake of beer's #MeToo

A beer stockpile which has been growing due to the lockdown restrictions in place.

Suffolk breweries are taking steps to diversify their workforces - Credit: Adnams

Beer and brewing have always been seen as male dominated spaces, but in recent weeks a letter criticising the "toxic culture" of one leading business has led to the industry's own #MeToo moment. 

A "significant number" of former BrewDog employees signed a letter alleging that the company fostered a culture of fear, "giving weight to sexist and misogynistic" behaviour — echoing the allegations about the entertainment industry in recent years.

BrewDog founder James Watt said he will learn from criticisms of a "toxic culture" in his company.

While there is no suggestion of a "toxic culture" at Suffolk breweries, they too say they are taking strides towards diversity. 

Sadie Lofthouse, HR director at Southwold-based brewery Adnams, said the company was pleased with its track record on diversity, but said there was still more to be done. 

Sadie Lofthouse, director of culture and performance at Adnams,

Sadie Lofthouse, director of culture and performance at Adnams - Credit: Suffolk County Council

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Miss Lofthouse said part of Adnams - the brewery - operated in a very male dominated industry but that was not the case for the hospitality side of the business.

She added: “For an industry that's male dominated, and for an industry that's had some pretty uncomfortable conversations going on over the last few weeks around sexual harassment, and how women are treated within this industry — especially within craft beer — our track record on gender is amazing. 

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“We can really hold our heads high there. And we’ve done really well on age — we’ve got employees of 16 to 72. 

“Do we need to do more around race, nationality and disability? Absolutely. It's kind of on our agenda and our to do list, to do a lot more and to work harder around that.” 

And when problems did arise, Miss Lofthouse said she felt the company dealt with them quickly.

"We have a very flat structure and I think that means everybody has a voice," she said. "And I think that then means that we have a good handle on how things are. Now, I'm not saying that everything is always perfect.

"But I am confident that if something was going on, I'd get to hear about it. And I am confident that we would deal with it really quickly."

A spokesman for Bury St Edmunds-based Greene King said: “As a long-standing brewer in Bury St Edmunds, we’re proud to have people working here today who are following in the footsteps of not just parents and grandparents but great-great grandparents too.

A view of Abbot House, the headquarters of pub and brewing company Greene King, in Bury St Edmunds,

A view of Abbot House, the headquarters of pub and brewing company Greene King, in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

"We care about building a diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects our society and we support a number of employee-led diversity groups within Greene King, including LGBTQ and Women’s networks.”

The spokesman added that was "a lot going on in this area for us". The company has recently appointed four women to its executive board and employs several female brewers — including one apprentice.

Meanwhile the brewery's quality-control and laboratory team is run and largely staffed by women.

The spokesman also said that employee-led groups had helped the company to develop initiatives.

Two further Suffolk breweries declined to comment.

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