There’s a line in the sand for marketing the successes of women and progress and then there’s the unnecessary advertisement of a women succeeding because she’s a woman.

Here’s one example. The well reputed Cicerone program, which I believe to be of very high value, has recently announced the successors of the recent round of Master Cicerone certification. To be sure, this high level achievement is notable for anyone to pass.

Why then did Cicerone choose to highlight the recent graduate as a female? It should be a ‘who cares what gender’ situation, especially in light of the fact that the beer community seems to think itself non sexist.

What color is her hair? How about her eyes? Should that be noted – that she is perhaps the first graduate to have a XYZ breed of dog too or is of a specific heritage that we feel we must bring to the surface?

Highlighting gender and age diminishes the true news here: successful attainment of a difficult goal hard won.

When you highlight something like this (gender, age) you unfortunately do everyone a disservice: you send the message that it’s important to point out that a woman can in fact attain this kind of progress. However well intended, it’s the wrong thing to do. It’s focused on gender as a “wow – she made it” instead of “wow – this person made it.” Focus on the brain and intelligence, not the plumbing.

Did they announce the first certified MC’s as “The First Men To Pass The Test”? I bet you a few beers they didn’t.

This post is not meant to malign the program. I like and respect Ray, founder of the program and endorse what’s he’s created. We’d be first in line to talk about the import of beer education for everyone. This time it includes the professionals too.

Point out the successes and leave gender out of it. We shouldn’t be caring about what gender is succeeding at beer. We should simply be nudging those forward who want the assistance and celebrating their wins with nary a gender reference in mind.

This pushes everyone back into the score keeping mode.

And unless age has any relevancy with success in this world that we are trying to constantly improve, negate the age reference “youngest”. It’s like you’re saying the longer you’ve been on the planet the more we should expect you to achieve in societies expected patterns. Pointing out age, whether it be young, old and everywhere in between, perpetuates the ridiculous focus that age has anything to do with success.

Let’s get over it and get on with it, shall we?

It’d be a good move for them to change the news on their page to simply highlight the latest graduate of the program.

Categories: Assumptions & Myth Busting, Beer, Education & Training, Something To Think About
Tags: , , ,

10 Responses to “Gender and Age Shouldn’t Matter for the Cicerone Program”

  1. Chris

    I understand the point you’re trying to make here, but as a marketer – you have to pitch something with an angle. No news organization is going to run a press release for every graduate that becomes a Master Cicerone. But, when someone passes that has a unique quality, by being younger than the rest or of the opposite gender, you then have a differentiating factor to highlight and it makes it a more interesting story and more likely to be run in other publications, thus resulting in more press for the Cicerone program and more publicity for Nicole.

    It is a great achievement for women, to show that they are just as capable as men of achieving one of the highest recognitions in beer education. This should be a story you are praising because it shows how much influence women have in the beer world. It’s great to see women achieving such things!

    Just my two cents to throw some other thoughts your way. Thanks for sharing the story and your thoughts – definitely worth considering!

  2. Ginger Johnson

    Thanks Chris – appreciate your two cents.
    “Just as capable” sounds patronizing. The Cicerone is well known and well regarded enough that they should simply focus on the fact that another person passed – period. The more we make gender unimportant or a post script, the closer to equality we get.
    I don’t know if you’re a male Chris or female Chris, yet either way, I do know that, based on consumer research, there are many women who would echo my comments. The assumption should be there, but not highlighted that – “oh look at her go, because she’s a female.” Differentiate in another way. I praise the program, and would never encourage using sex to sell.
    Cheers – g

  3. Adaminium

    I agree with the sentiment. I think that the best way to end racism, sexism, etc. is to stop talking about it. The sooner we lose black history month, as danny glover pointed out, the sooner we aren’t looking at differences.
    I can understand, also, the idea that pointing out that Nicole is female is a good marketing angle for Cicerone. The fact is, Nicole is the fourth cicerone worldwide. I think that cicerone is less renowned than you propose, and worth marketing any way possible. Being a Cicerone since mid 2009 (and having sat for the Master exam alongside Nicole), I’ve found that one doesn’t have to go very far outside the beer industry ‘circle’ to find folks that give a blank stare in response to any conversation on Cicerones.
    Therefore, I can see why it seems worthwhile to point out the unique points that might help promote Nicole’s accomplishment, alongside announcing the news of our latest master cicerone.
    So– still a grey line, I think. In today’s world of excess information, rabid marketing, and difficulty in sifting through everything presented as ‘important,’ I’m the kind of person looking for more descriptors, more definitions, and more reasons to align myself with the promotions I find heading my way through all the various channels of social software.
    (ps – for the sake of stirring it up: if I had made the master exam, I might have demanded to find out if I was the first left-handed, jewish male to pass…)

  4. Ginger Johnson

    Thanks very much for commenting, Adam. Congrats yourself on your own progress. I knew I liked Danny Glover. Cheers – g

  5. Jason Castonguay

    I agree with Chris.

  6. My Sister's Thoughts

    Ginger, In the wonderful world of firsts you’ve taken something positive and twisted it with your feminist lens into a negative event. Did you even think to ask Nicole Erny how she felt? I bet you she was elated to be the first woman and the youngest ever to achieve the Master Cicerone Certificate. It’s a good thing more women don’t think like you.

  7. Ginger Johnson

    My Sister’s Thoughts – Glad this struck a chord with you. You took it all wrong, which is your perogative. If you read my site regularly you’d understand clearly that WEB is about questioning and offering insight, based on what hundreds of women think (research). You’re the one who has decided to twist it; this isn’t about Nicole at all. And like the post indicated this isn’t maligning anyone achievements. This is reflecting on questioning why an educational organization chose to highlight gender and age instead of the achievement itself regardless of the achiever and regardless of marketing tactics or philosophy, in an age when we are trying to get past it. Do you want to feel like a quota, is that it? DO you want to perpetuate that kind of dangerous thinking? Go right ahead – but that’s not what we’re about. Caveat: be careful where you point your finger and get on your soapbox before you really know where the voice is coming from. I’d suggest you look up the definition of Feminism – you along with many people others, are uninformed with what the word means. And I’d also recommend transparency, instead of a nom de plume; if you’re going to rant, be known. Cheers – stay passionate. Ginger

  8. Annette May

    While I agree philosophically with Ginger, on a practical note being a (publicized)female Certified Cicerone has encouraged many females in my area to explore craft beer- they feel comfortable coming to a female for advice. The publicity I received for becoming the first *female* Certified Cicerone was also beneficial for the same reason, and for encouraging women who work in the industry to pursue certification themselves.
    Annette May, (first female) Certified Cicerone

  9. Ginger Johnson

    Thanks Annette and kudos! When you got your certification, was it touted as the first woman or were you recognized for your achievement period? Agreed: visible examples to encourage other people in the same boat are important – just as long as they are not paraded around to feel like it should be extra special notice or patronizing. Appreciate your two cents and the transparency of you using your name in this comment. Cheers – Ginger

  10. Annette May

    Ginger- the headline was touted as “First Woman”, however the press release talked about the achievement, my background, and the program and how one goes about attaining the certification, along with talk about the (obvious) need for beer-serving professionals. It was never patronizing to me, or women. There are more and more women in all aspects of craft beer, from consumers to those that work in the industry, but it’s still a predominately male field, so having some publicity about women attaining these heights can only be good, in my opinion. Nicole’s achievement is an outstanding one- more so because she is quite young (than being female). It takes years of education & practise to develop the knowledge, skills, and palate that she has achieved in a much shorter time! Annette


Leave a Reply