Being a woman in the industry has its days, like the day some really nice customer said this to me: "You're pretty good at this beer stuff…" Me (in my head): "Awh thank you kind hu-" "….for a girl." pic.twitter.com/7HmVFHZFH7 — Kaleigh Leingang (@DESTIHLmarauder) November 17, 2016 Or when I get asked if I “know what I am talking about.” Or when I am ignored at beer festivals. Or when folks ask my husband questions about my brand when he’s at events I’m working. He’s very good about re-routing the question to me so the customer understands that I (yes, all five feet of me) am the “expert” for the time being. I’ve rolled my eyes many times since I embarked on a beer career three years ago. It’s dizzying, and tiring, especially if there are multiple instances of subtle or blatant sexism in a day. When I volunteered to help open the Tennessee market for the brewery I work for today, I expected more of the same. I expected a male-dominated regional team. I expected to be glossed over on ride-alongs, and to be forced to compete against them for attention when dealing with accounts. My husband and I even joked about the fact I’d be working with strange, southern men all week (he told me not to run away, jokingly … half-jokingly, maybe … and to come back home with my wedding rings on). Turns out, things are done a little differently down there. That week in Chattanooga, I worked with an outstanding sales team force. They sell beer, they sell wine, they sell spirits, and they know their product front-to-back. They run sales call like efficient, bubbling machines. They rule their city … and their names were Courtney, Brogan, and Mary Claire. Of Chattanooga’s five-person force, four of them were women. Back in Wisconsin, I was one of three women in a room of 100. Distributors I’ve worked for on the supplier side have a man-to-woman ratio that averages about 15:1. With the tables turned in Tennessee, my focus turned away from the other salesperson at the bar next to me and back inward. Pitches were smooth, relaxed, and more much conversational than I’d experienced prior. There wasn’t a single account where I warned of “they don’t like female sales ladies” or “this buyer has been mean to ladies in the past.” Everything was professional. Everyone respected each other. Take away the distraction of “Is this dude going to smoke me?” becomes more than uplifting: it flat-out makes my work easier. What’s more important was the realization that I control that distraction, and I can function without it in any environment if I allow myself. So, I’m going to. This year, I’m officially done with that “Race of the Sexes” BS. This year, instead of competing as a female competing against males, I’m crashing the marketplace as a brand ambassador and an expert of the product I’m representing – nothing more, nothing less. I’m confident that my best work can stand against anyone’s and I’m done putting myself at a disadvantage. Don’t worry: I’ll still rage about outrageous brewery marketing, or gross things men in the business have said or done; but from 9–5 (or 9-midnight – we all know those days), it’s mind on the grind. The extra positivity will go a long way. Let’s recap. Less of this: More of this: Here’s to a happy, successful, beer-soaked 2017 for my ladies in the industry — let’s kick some ass.
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