Yesterday, Bud Light issued an apology after facing a firestorm of criticism over beer labels that read, “The Perfect Beer For Removing ‘No’ From Your Vocabulary For The Night.” The labels are part of the “Up For Whatever” marketing campaign, which also faced criticism for a tweet during St. Patrick’s Day saying, “You can also pinch people who aren’t #UpForWhatever.”
Both taglines could be construed to endorse unwanted sexual contact or, in the case of the most recent one, rape. Plenty of women know about rape culture and have fought against it, but women may not have been involved in deciding how to shape Bud Light’s recent advertising campaigns.
The team responsible for Bud Light is the North American branch of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the owner of Budweiser. Out of 14 executives leading that team, just one is a woman: Katie Barrett, a vice president and general counsel. The marketing director for Anheuser-Busch is a man, although the company did not return a request from Think Progress asking how many women are on his team.
The women who do make it to leadership may also not have much of an influence. Last year, Anheuser-Busch faced a lawsuit from Francine Katz, a former executive who eventually became the highest ranking woman in the company after spending 20 years employed there. Even from her position in the company, she claimed that she was kept out of important functions such as golf tournaments and hunting trips with the CEO and was made to fly on a separate corporate plane. “I felt invisible,” she said.
She also claimed the company unfairly paid her millions less than her male predecessor, a gap that never closed, and that women at the company were all paid on a lower tier than the men. She eventually lost her case because the jury couldn’t single out gender as the motivating factor.
While anonymous and not verified, ratings for the company’s support of women on female employee review website InHerSight don’t shed any more favorable light. It gets a 1.9 star rating overall out of a possible 5. One anonymous commenter who says she was a senior manager claims she was sexually harassed and writes, “They don’t seem t care [sic] about equality – women are only good for ads.”
The company is far from unique in having a dearth of women in leadership, and in fact does better than the quarter of large American companies that don’t have any female executives and the 18 companies in the S&P 500 without any women on their boards. There is plenty of research showing that increased gender diversity in leadership improves performance. It’s also possible that more women could save companies from making these kind of embarrassing marketing mistakes.
In a statement sent to ThinkProgress, the company said, “This was a mistake that shouldn’t have happened. Both women and men reviewed the scrolls internally, and we just missed it. You don’t have to be female to recognize the issues with this scroll; it just shouldn’t have run.” It also added, “We immediately ceased production of this message on all bottles and have taken steps to ensure this does not happen again.”