Over the last few months, we have finally seen a long-overdue focus on the sexism, misogyny, and harassment faced by women and non-binary people in the brewing and hospitality industry. This movement, spearheaded by Brienne Allan, Siobhan Buchanan, and Fanny Wandel, is bringing to light the true nature of our industry. Some organisations have reacted quickly and decisively to accounts and accusations of sexism. Others, not so much.
When accusations were made against individuals within their team, BrewDog’s silence was deafening. As an industry leader, they had the opportunity to set the standard for how to respond to such allegations – but their senior leadership squandered it. Following an oft-repeated path, they instead began to threaten legal action against those sharing the anonymous allegations.
In response to this, an open letter was penned and signed by over one hundred former (and some current) BrewDog staff, in an attempt to reveal the company culture, and thus give context to the allegations. This letter was published by us, Punks With Purpose, a group formed in 2020 to attempt to call out BrewDog’s regular lying and hypocrisy on social media.
Now, nine weeks since we published the letter, we see signs that BrewDog is making progress in many areas, and we acknowledge that change will of course take time. For the record, with the exception of the announcement of exit interviews for most of those who left BrewDog within the last year, no contact has been made with signatories of the open letter, or with Punks With Purpose as an organisation. This is despite James Watt’s commitment, made on the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2, on 11th June 2021, to contact every single signatory.
We have been clear in our statements to date that none of the changes and projects proposed by BrewDog will fully address their deep-rooted issues. If they are not aware by now of their internalised sexism and misogyny, then a staff survey and culture review are not going to help. They just defer an issue that cannot continue to be ignored. Currently, the only engagement we are aware of consists of a brief statement made by James on the company shareholder forum.
From a self-proclaimed thought leader, sadly we expected more. Ten years ago was not some historic, unenlightened time. A twenty-eight year old man, already running a successful business with an engaged following, has significantly more responsibility than a teenager making jokes to their friends, and should know better than to act like one. The “joke” mentioned was not a one-off – it was told many times over the years, and as individuals we have personally witnessed this. But more importantly, we hoped to see an apology for telling the story, not for causing offence. Own the thing you did, explain why it was wrong, and why you don’t want to repeat your mistake.
In reference to the instagram stories, we were also disappointed to see nothing beyond denial, an attempt to direct attention to the points that James felt were the most significant (skinny-dipping and travel arrangements), and reverting to pointing out the upcoming culture review. Many, many accusations have been made, not just the one James referred to.
Also on the forum, a group of vocal shareholders continue to argue that those making claims must be prepared to forego their anonymity and provide hard evidence of wrongdoing. People do not always have evidence of the worst issues they have had to deal with, for a variety of reasons. And even if they did, they may not feel able to share their evidence (or their full story) for a different variety of reasons. This usually results in the person causing the problems facing few (if any) repercussions, and is a key part of the reason why things often don’t come to light.
Instead of focusing on whether those speaking out can provide documentary evidence, pay attention to the huge number of people corroborating the attitude that could be causing symptoms such as unfair dismissal, overworked employees, staff pushed into taking on unacceptable responsibilities, and most importantly, sexism, misogyny, harassment, gaslighting, and reports of assault going ignored.
We will continue to try and push for positive change, but this is an issue that cannot be downplayed or ignored.
BrewDog need to respond, as a business, right now. And everyone else needs to believe women.