If the fact that women in the whiskey industry still deal with harassment, bias, and other forms of sexism comes as a surprise to you, you’re probably a man. According to a new report from the OurWhisky Foundation, despite the many advances women have made in this historically male-dominated field, over 80 percent of respondents to a survey said that they still get asked one extremely dumb question at work or when ordering a drink: “Do you even like whiskey?”
The OurWhisky Foundation was founded in 2018 by writer Becky Paskin to “champion inclusion and diversity among both whisky makers and drinkers,” according to its mission statement. Paskin is a respected journalist who has been covering whiskey and other drinks-related subject matter for many years, and was one of the first people to call out author Jim Murray for his use of cringey sexist language in his annual review book The Whisky Bible. The aptly titled “Do You Even Like Whisky” Report surveyed more than 600 women who work in different aspects of the industry last month from 30 countries, and the key results might be surprising—although, unfortunately, perhaps they shouldn’t be.
Here are some key findings from the report: 87 percent of women surveyed said they felt more challenges at work than their male colleagues, with significant examples being sexual harassment, gender pay gap, and overall unconscious bias. Almost 90 percent believe that consumers still look at whiskey as being a man’s drink, and only 16 percent believe the industry is actively trying to change that perception. The numbers that believe women are fairly represented in the industry are dismally low at less than 20 percent. Also, 70 percent have dealt with inappropriate or sexual remarks on the job, and less than 40 percent think their companies provide adequate parental support. “While the industry appears to be taking steps towards inclusion and better representation, this survey clearly shows women feel they aren’t supported enough,” wrote Paskin on the OurWhisky Foundation website. “It’s time the industry sits up and really listens to women’s voices.”
Of course there are some extremely influential and talented women working in the whiskey industry like Nicole Austin (George Dickel), Rachel Barrie (The GlenDronach, Benriach, Glenglassaugh), and Emma Walker (Johnnie Walker), but just the fact that this sentence is being written is arguably proof of the imbalance in the industry. The OurWhiskey Foundation has identified some key areas that companies can focus on to eliminate sexism, like establishing clear anti-harassment polices, conducting pay audits, and improving representation of women in advertising and marketing without resorting to stereotypes. Let’s hope this report makes an impact, and cheers to a better future in whiskey.