Survey: Sexism in the Whisky Industry Is Prevalent and Appalling

To start: Keep your hands to yourself and stop asking women in whisky if they "actually" like whisky

A woman holding a glass of whisky. A new survey of people in the whisky industry suggests that sexism is rampant and a woman's knowledge about whisky is often questioned.
Please assume that a woman in the whisky industry likes whisky
OurWhisky Foundation

Chances are very, very high if you meet a woman in the whisky industry, they like their job and they (surprise) like whisky. And yet, a new survey suggests that more than 80% of women in the whisky world still get this question, part of a rather troubling new set of statistics that prove that sexism is still prevalent in an industry that’s trying to get more diverse.

The new stats come from a survey called, appropriately, “Do You Even Like Whisky? The Barriers Holding Back Women in the Industry,” which was conducted in July 2023 by the OurWhisky Foundation, a non-profit supporting women in the whisky world.

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“More than 80% of female respondents making, selling and promoting whisky reported being asked by both colleagues and consumers if they even like the spirit, with a staggering 89% agreeing that consumers still widely perceive whisky to be a man’s drink,” as the report notes (the survey included over 600 women in the industry).

Other stats don’t paint a rosier picture:

  • Two-thirds of the survey’s respondents said a masculine reputation makes their jobs more challenging, and just 16% felt that the industry was doing enough to change that perception.
  • 87% felt that they experience more challenges in the workplace than their male counterparts
  • Almost half of those in consumer-facing roles reported inappropriate physical behavior
  • 89% of women in consumer-facing roles said they had been spoken over or had their knowledge questioned while conducting a tasting
  • As for whisky advertising and marketing, only 16% felt women were fairly represented and 10% agreed women are fairly represented by the media
  • 70% of all respondents said they’d experienced inappropriate or sexual remarks while doing their job, while 33% said they had been inappropriately touched (and that number rose to 44% among those working in consumer-facing roles)

“Being spoken over, having your knowledge questioned or being asked if you actually like whisky are common occurrences for women working in whisky,” says Becky Paskin, founder of the OurWhisky Foundation. “These are surface-level yet widespread examples of unconscious bias manifesting as micro-aggressions – the ongoing effect of decades of male-targeted advertising.”

She adds: “While the industry appears to be taking steps towards inclusion and better representation, this survey clearly shows women feel they aren’t supported enough. It’s important to realize that while it’s perhaps easy to shrug off a solo incident, these micro-aggressions build up over time to have a devastating impact on the women in our industry. The escalation of these attitudes into inappropriate verbal and physical behavior cannot be ignored. The industry needs to take this issue extremely seriously.”

The solutions, according to OurWhisky, include improving non-stereotypical representation of women in advertising and marketing, implementing unconscious bias and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training for all staff, implementing bystander training and clear anti-harassment policies, conducting a company pay audit and allowing flexible working hours and locations for all parents (not just women).

And remember, there usually aren’t any stupid questions, but “Do you even like whisky?” is an exception to that rule.


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