I just finished reading a book called Women of Wine: The Rise of Women in the Global Wine Industry, written by Ann B. Matasar, which traces the history of women and their involvement/influence in the wine industry. I was both motivated and sadden by the book. It is very interesting to read the stories of women paving paths in the wine industry such as Janis Robinson, Heidi Peterson Barrett, Merry Edwards and Mireille Guiliano, to name a few. Each women has come across numerous hurdles and in most cases, worked twice as hard as their male counterparts to reach the top of their careers.
As much as I was truly inspired by most of these women, I was sadden by the fact that gender issues still exist. I was extremely sadden by certain old world traditions where daughters have to convince their own fathers that they are capable of running the family business after generations of male family members have been running the business. Even if they obtain the opportunity and title of CEO, it could be taken from them at any moment, whereas a male sibling would hold the title and would not be at risk of having the opportunity taken away. The most outrageous moment in the book talked about a superstition in France, which still holds true today at certain wineries, stating, "women are not allowed near fermenting wine because...if they are menstruating the wine might turn to vinegar or referment monthly." (pg.11.) Unbelievable!
Understandably, each women has dealt with gender issues differently. I was surprised by the number that said gender roles weren't an issue or rather chose to ignore it in order to stay focused while others didn't hesitate to say women have to work twice as hard and often skip out on office happy hours at the risk of looking like a "loose" women fraternizing with the guys. The wine industry is social industry, happy hours are a vital extension of the office. The double standard of women and alcohol needs to disappear. I was also sadden with a number of women who have "made it," but do not have time to network or mentor the next generation. As women having to work so hard to remain at the top that do not have a moment to look back or are they afraid of being labeled a feminist by helping other women succeed?
Even the list of blogs featured on winebusiness.com are all written by men. I think it is time for gender to stop being the driving force that dictates who becomes more successful in certain jobs and industries. The best person for the job should be advancing. As I have run into some hurdles in my own wine career I am looking to these women for inspiration. I am making a commitment both to myself and to the industry that I will not give up and help erase gender stereotypes. As I adopt a "Life is tough- so what?" attitude like Piero Antinori, I will continue to do my part through education, blogging and experience. With that being said I am just over two months away from the Sommelier exam. As I taste and studying wine I will be sharing my experiences here at The Wine Key.