The new initiative helping women in the wine industry

by Michael Cooper / 04 February, 2018
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Agnes Seifried: the first woman to be made a fellow of NZ Winegrowers. Photo/Tim Cuff

Helping women advance their careers in the industry is the goal of Women in Wine.

Misha’s Vineyard, Jules Taylor, Clos de Ste Anne, Kate Radburnd, Clos Marguerite, Kim Crawford – a few New Zealand wine brands were designed from the start to celebrate the pivotal contribution of women. Okay, that last one is a joke – apparently, wine lovers in the US, where the brand is a runaway success, often assume wrongly that Kim Crawford is a woman.

New Zealand Winegrowers recently launched a “Women in Wine” initiative, to promote and facilitate the success of women in the wine industry. At the 2017 Marlborough Wine and Food Festival, two-thirds of the ticket holders were women. In the UK, women buy 70% of all wine.

However, in the US, wine advertising pitched at women tends to emphasise pink imagery, low calories and high heels, says corporate-social-responsibility consultant Sandra Taylor.

In the workplace, other problems arise. Women account for nearly 50% of the enrolments in viticulture and winemaking courses in Australia, but represent less than 10% of the workforce.

Prominent Melbourne wine writer Jeni Port believes “the future for women in the New Zealand wine industry is predicated to an uncommon degree by their gender”.

A recent international survey found a 50% chance that any woman working here would face sexist behaviour, such as “comments about her clothing or her looks, or ability to drive a forklift …”. At wine promotional events, members of the public often assume female winemakers are waitresses. About 30% believe they are paid less than their male colleagues.

Other complaints include that when a woman and a man launch a wine business, it’s assumed the male is the driving force. In restaurants, when a couple are dining, sommeliers tend to hand the wine list to the man.

Women in Wine aims to help women advance their careers in the industry, by organising a national mentoring programme and regional opportunities for networking. Retiring after 37 years as a PA and office manager for the national wine body, Lorraine Rudelj was elected a fellow of New Zealand Winegrowers last November. Agnes Seifried, in 2014, was the first woman fellow.

This article was first published in the January 6, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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