Originally, throughout history, brewing was considered women’s work. Cross-culturally, women were the brewers, the makers of beer. They made chicha de jora in Peru. They made ale in enormous cauldrons in England. They did it in Egypt, in South Africa. It’s thanks to Hildegard von Bingen, a 12th century nun, that we know using hops increases beer’s shelf life.
But that is decidedly not the case anymore. Now, you think of beer, and you likely think of plaid-clad men with beards making (and chugging) IPAs. And the numbers seemingly bear that out: a 2014 study found that, of 1,700 active breweries surveyed, only 4% had a female head brewer or brewmaster. And many in the industry—particularly the women—have long wondered aloud whether or not that powerfully skewed representation has an effect on how people consume beer.
Well now, a new study seems to confirm what those in the industry have long-known: people rate beer more highly if they think it was brewed by a man.
Researchers at Stanford University set out to study gender bias in product markets, or what is called “status belief transfer, the process by which gender status beliefs differentially affect the evaluations of products made by men and women.” The long and short of it: “a craft beer described as produced by a woman is evaluated more negatively than the same product described as produced by a man.”
In fact, according to Futurity, “when consumers believed the producer was a woman, they claimed they would pay less for the beer, and they had lower expectations of taste and quality.”
If you’re wondering how they came to this conclusion, they first had participants rate products, ranging from hand tools to high heels, on a scale from “very masculine” to “very feminine” to gain a baseline understanding of gender perceptions of objects. Beer was rated a masculine product. And when presented the same exact beer label, but told that it was either brewed by a woman or a man, participants heavily favored the label when they were told it was brewed by a man.
They also held for variables by testing a product that was perceived as equally feminine as beer was masculine—cupcakes. The perception of the quality of cupcakes was no worse when it was deemed made by a man, which means that the negative bias is “asymmetrical”—only affecting women.
Interestingly, when told the beer was award-winning, that had a larger net positive effect on a beer that was produced by a woman. Shelley J. Correll, one of the researchers, told Futurity, “It seems that awards vouch for the competence of the woman.”
So, before you judge this article, you should know: I won several soccer trophies between the ages of three and eleven. The writing was really good, right?