Forum for Social Economics

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 33–42 | Cite as

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

  • Janet SpitzEmail author


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 



This paper has benefitted from comments on an earlier version presented at the Association for Social Economics Meetings at the American Economics Association, San Francisco, January 5, 2008. I would like to thank the College of Saint Rose, including the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Citizenship Studies, for ongoing research support.


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Copyright information

© Association for Social Economics 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of BusinessThe College of Saint RoseAlbanyUSA
  2. 2.Visiting Associate Professor of International BusinessUniversity of Queensland Business SchoolBrisbaneAustralia

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