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How We’re Addressing the Issue of Sexual Harassment in Craft Beer

[Below is an internal message sent to all Allagash employees by our leadership team on Wed. May 19th]

 

Hello Allagash,

Anyone else feeling sickened by the recent disclosures by many women in the Craft Beer industry about being treated poorly based on gender? Many industries over the past couple of years have experienced a “moment of reckoning,” sparking women to come forward on social media using the hashtags #MeToo and #TimesUp to signal a refusal to tolerate things they’d quietly been enduring for years.  Now, it seems to be Craft Beer’s turn. Over the past week, a female head brewer from Massachusetts courageously used her own Instagram feed to solicit stories and examples from others who had experienced sexism or misogyny working in the industry. It opened a floodgate. 

For those who want to learn more, recent press coverage can be found here and here

What seems really clear is that this is a deeply rooted, systemic problem. While we can’t begin to know the ins and outs of each story, the sheer volume of reported incidents and experiences speaks to a pattern of toxic behavior that has gone on too long. Why might this be? Sadly, this is pretty widespread regardless of the industries I’ve worked in. In the brewing industry, a balance of power is often at play: ownership and in many cases management tends to be male, while females are in more individual contributor roles.  Additionally, a general “boys will be boys” attitude present in larger society is exacerbated both by alcohol and the creation of mini-kingdoms where an irreverence for convention can be used to create a “rules don’t apply” culture. HR is a female-dominated profession that too often is under-invested in, and not taken seriously by leadership.

These firsthand accounts are deeply disturbing, and we want to use this as an opportunity to reiterate some important points:

  • Silence is the #1 thing that gives toxic cultures the opportunity to grow and thrive. If you have experienced sexual harassment of any kind while working at Allagash, we want to know right away so we can address it immediately. This is true whether the treatment was onsite, at an account, a festival, or any place and whether this was at the hands of a fellow coworker, industry colleague, contractor, etc. We can and will take immediate action on your behalf, beginning with a thorough and discreet investigation. Our Anti-Harassment Policy [attached to the email] specifies that you can report to either [HR Director or Our Owner]. We intentionally have both male and female options listed to try to ensure there are options depending on with whom you are more comfortable. We are also in the process of setting up a third-party anonymous reporting system to ensure every base is covered in terms of options to report. 
  • If anything work-related that you once tolerated isn’t sitting so well with you today, please reach out to let me know right away. We have a well-thought out process for handling internal complaints, and are grateful to be alerted to something. These could be hard conversations but please know we are committed to having them and you’ll never “get in trouble” for bringing concerns forward.
  • Some of these personal accounts on social media are very difficult to read. If you have experienced sexual assault or harassment in the past and these stories are creating post-traumatic stress for you, confidential mental health counseling is available. You can utilize the skilled clinicians at WellSpace at no cost to you—whether for a one-time session, or ongoing help. Originally put in place to help employees with pandemic-related stress, we’ve committed to that partnership longer term due to the overwhelming positive feedback we’ve gotten about it. Stress seems to be at an all time high and we want you to continue to have options and support. 

Many of you are asking, “what can I do?”

  • The number one thing you can do is to treat all people respectfully regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, position, religion, etc. 
  • The next thing you can do is to be an ally to all and to speak up in defense of others when lines are being crossed and your co-workers are being creeped on or disrespected. Sadly, too many women have been conditioned to think that this is something they just have to put up with, and we need to stop tolerating it.
  • We’ll offer a refresher class (online) on Bystander Intervention, this one targeted towards gender issues, with our friends at Prevention Action Change. If you haven’t participated in one of these, or if you’d like a refresher, we’d love to have you. The curriculum offers an opportunity to do role plays based on scenarios our staff submits in advance- giving you a chance to go back and have a do-over when you haven’t known what to do or say.
  • We have a company account with Crafted For All, and Dr. J Nikol Jackson-Beckham, the BA’s Equity & Inclusion Partner offers periodic seminars and workshops on timely topics like this. Reach out to a member of the HR team if you’d like to receive invites to these events.

Others are asking, “what can Allagash do?” 

As a B Corp, we prioritize using business as a force for good. Equity and Inclusion work is never done, and although we have room to grow and improve on the gender equity front, we have figured out some things that work well and sharing those may help others. So we’ll be doing both things—trying to get better while sharing what we’ve learned so far. This is similar to our approach to quality, safety, sustainability, etc. Here are a few specific thoughts.

  • We don’t tolerate patterns of disrespect and harassment no matter who you are and where you are working. Our Sales Team is empowered to walk away from any account, wholesaler partner, or other party that is engaging in a way that feels disrespectful. Our Tasting Room staff is empowered to ask customers to modify behavior (or leave the premises if they cannot engage respectfully.)  We’ll be writing these sentiments down with more clarity in a policy format.
  • We’ll continue to develop and enhance programs and policies that promote gender equity—things like paid parental leave, flexible work schedules, robust time off programs, trainings, and education on creating inclusive workplace environments that allow people to incorporate work and family life.
  • We’ll listen and create more space for you to process ideas, frustrations, and thoughts around gender equity. Look for invitations in the coming weeks facilitated by some of our trusted partners.
  • We’ll offer Empowerment Self-Defense classes to staff through Prevention Action Change (the entire Sales Team participated in an 8 hour training in 2019, and we’ll be offering a version of this to all employees going forward.)
  • We’ll use our insights, experiences and resources to try to spread awareness and best practices within the industry. We can’t make larger changes without the commitment of many. Things like industry and festival codes of conduct, cross company reporting of incidents, and other joint efforts could have a big impact. 
  • We’re continuing to grow and support our Pink Boots representation at the brewery.  We have paid for memberships for all interested employees for many years, and this year marked the largest ever involvement we’ve had in a Pink Boots Brew.  We are excited to continue this momentum.
  • We’ll continue to support organizations that elevate the causes and voices of women and girls, like the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute, The Telling Room, In Her Presence, Chance to Advance, and Wohelo Camps.
  • In 2020, we started asking for any industry boards or panels that we serve on to have a representation of different genders.
  • We’ll reaffirm our commitment to gender equity to our extended Allagash community- the marketing team is working on an external message.

This is a complex and distressing moment- and at the same time we are hopeful- because the first step toward real change (which the industry clearly needs) comes from a combination of honesty and disruption. Your thoughts and ideas on this topic are welcome! Reach out directly to me through [internal email], or [internal form to ask questions of company leadership depending on your preference.

I look forward to working with each of you on our collective growth as individuals and as an organization. 

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Please note that both the brewery and the Bite Into Maine food truck will be CLOSED Friday, September 24, for our All-Staff Meeting. Our Hours
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