Forum for Social Economics

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 33-42

First online:

CEO Gender and the Malt Brewing Industry: Return of the Beer Witch, Ale-Wife, and Brewster

  • Janet SpitzAffiliated withSchool of Business, The College of Saint RoseVisiting Associate Professor of International Business, University of Queensland Business School Email author 

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Beer companies may not come to mind as a warm and welcoming environment for women in management. Indeed, few other mainstream industries utilize advertising as openly hostile to women. Yet in contrast to the 2% CEO positions held by women in Fortune 500 firms, 20% of U. S. large and medium sized malt brewing companies are headed by women. Historical research reveals that Ale-Wives, or Brewsters, held ownership of beer making as a spiritual as well as nutritional contribution to village life for some 20,000 years in a broad array of cultures and geographic locales. Dark Age witch hunts combined with sanitation spoilage to allow the Church and monasteries to wrest control of this high status and lucrative activity; industrial revolution mechanization completed the process of moving beer brewing firmly into the hands of men. Contemporary Microbrewer and Craft Beer concern with sustainable production and community, and thus a possibly more spiritual focus beyond consumption of the product itself, may help explain this female malt brewing leadership regression to the mean.


Gender Management Leadership CEO Women in management Social economics Labor economics Beer Malt brewing Spirituality Sustainability Sexism