On Diversity

I recently sat in a meeting where another organisation approached us for support in promoting diversity in home brewing. I myself am often held aloft as some example of diversity in what is undeniably a hobby dominated by straight, white men. But as a cranky old queer woman, I still see a lot more people like me than I do, say, people of colour, male or female. 

Whenever I talk or listen about diversity, it invariably strikes me that the organisations are by and large, made up of people who think of themselves as not racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. and yet they have difficulty attracting the diverse crowd they want. The conclusion is almost always "group x just doesn't want to be part of our oranisation". 

And that may be true. There could very well be some cultural barrier that limits the participation of a certain group in your organisation. You're just not going to find that many Jewish or Muslim people at a bacon club. Sure there might be some, but there's a cultural barrier there. 

But aside from that, there are layers of issues that organisers fail to even think about. 

Like "where does your club meet"? If the entrance is in a dark alley, there's a good chance a lot of women won't even bother to show up. It doesn't matter if everyone in your club is super friendly, that's a vulnerable environment for women. Especially if she's surrounded by a bunch of men she doesn't know who are drinking. 

That goes doubly so for people who are in multiple minority boxes. Drunk people do and say offensive things. No-one wants to put themselves in a situation where they may be subject to harassment or even violence, especially in a space they're unfamiliar with. Again, it doesn't matter that you've never seen it happen at your organisation before; what matters is the possibility that it could happen because people who have never been to your organisation can only judge you on possibilities until they become familiar with you. 

Low risk, well-publicised outreach events in public spaces are one way to alleviate some of these issues. People who might not feel safe meeting at a warehouse after hours will be much more likely to approach you and engage with you there and some of that may carry over into showing up for meetings at the cheaper places you can afford to meet at. Once your organisation is able to diversify a little bit, it becomes a safer space for others because they're able to see themselves in your club. Representation matters. 

And while some hobbies are expensive, brewing can still be incredibly cheap. A pot, a kettle and a grain bag are what most of us started with. But the biggest hurdle is, and always has been time. 

I can only speak to my own experience, but brewing takes a long time, especially if you're doing a brew in a bag. Sure, some of us have it down to a science, but if you think back to your first brew day, it probably took way longer than you expected. You probably missed your mash temperature, your gravity, maybe broke some things and definitely made a much bigger mess than you were expecting. All of that requires time. 

And the simple fact is that women generally have less of it then men. In general, women still bear the brunt of housework and child rearing and therefore have less time to devote to other hobbies. My friends are constantly amazed at how many things I do, but I live in a two-woman household with no kids. It frees up a lot more time to devote to whatever I feel like doing, including brewing.

The vast majority of women and people who are working multiple jobs or irregular hours have no time to brew. There's not an easy fix to that problem, but it doesn't mean we should just give up. Obviously we need to make our organizations as accessible as possible, but if we actually committed to diversity, it means we have work to do beyond our organizations to help change things across society at large