Gender diversity is a two way street, which needs men to step up and provide mentoring to women in the wine industry. The results from such an approach speak for themselves, with greater achievements for the wine business, and job satisfaction for the mentors and those being mentored alike.
“In fact, current stats show that women may not even be sitting around the ‘influence’ table in our wine businesses, so we need to make sure we extend the conversation to both genders, and work hard on improving unconscious bias,” says Corrina Wright of Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards.
“To demonstrate how important this is, we have asked some talented #winechicks to tell us about who has stood behind them, and helped them get to where they are in their career.”
Here is the story behind epic #winechick Melissa Brown, viticulturist for Gemtree Wines in McLaren Vale.
Words are Melissa Brown’s own.
Gemtree Wines chief winemaker and managing director/husband
“I met Mike two weeks after I commenced work in the vineyards. He has stood by me all the way along in my career including in my studies, working my way up in the vineyard management business, starting a wine brand together, and providing me with encouragement and support when things haven’t gone according to plan. Doing his fair share of work at home and with our kids has been key to allowing me to progress in my career so I have the time I need to devote to my work. We work together well as a team and enjoy discussing all the aspects of our business. We have managed to stay happily married for 16 years even though we sometimes disagree on what the grapes I supply to the winery are worth!”
“No one was more surprised than my dad when 22 years ago I announced I wanted to work in the vineyards, which was a huge change in career direction for me from administration. I think Dad had secretly hoped that my brother Andrew would eventually take over the vineyards, and my interest in the business came out of left field. Dad provided me with employment and financial support at uni while undertaking my degree in viticulture by distance education. At the age of 27, when Dad’s vineyard manager resigned, Dad took a leap of faith and put me in charge of a team of men and a few women with more experience than I and some a lot older. While we have had our differences of opinion along the way, Dad has always encouraged me to continue to strive for better results and allowed me to vary my working hours to suit my changing family commitments. If it wasn’t for Dad’s business success and belief in me, I wouldn’t have had all the amazing opportunities I have had and be working in a job I truly love and am dedicated to.”
Vineyard manager, Gemtree Wines
“Troy joined our business 14 years ago and it didn’t take long for him to work his way up to the position of vineyard manager, and he has been my right hand man ever since. A talented vineyard manager in his own right, Troy has always respected me and supported my ideas, trials and quest to move away from conventional practices to farm a biodynamically certified vineyard. We bounce ideas off each other, provide each other with support through thick and thin and enjoy working together. We also have a laugh together about some of the gender bias I have encountered in my work. The strong working relationship I have with Troy has given me the confidence and impetus to pursue my goals and to drive our business forward.”
Viticulturist/owner, Chalk Hill Viticulture
“Jock and I worked together in my family’s vineyard management business during the grape industry boom of the 90s. Although more experienced than myself and fully qualified, Jock made me feel comfortable about my level of knowledge and was always willing to share information and give advice where needed. Jock left our business to set up his own and we have remained close friends ever since. As an industry colleague, Jock has always treated me as an equal. I am fortunate to have had the encouragement and support of Mike, Dad, Troy and Jock as well as my brother, Andrew, in my career in the wine industry. All talented individuals that know that gender is not an issue when it comes to success. We have come a long way from the notion that the woman’s role is to stay at home and look after the family and that a man can do a job better than a woman. Anyone who still holds that view belongs in the Dark Ages. My desire to succeed in a male-dominated industry has been greatly enhanced by the support of all of my male mentors and given me the confidence to lead and manage, and hopefully inspire my team.”
From left: Paul Buttery, Troy Elliker, Mike Brown and Jock Harvey supporting viticulturist, Melissa Brown.
Share your #heforshe story with a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘Women In Wine’, for a chance to see your story up in lights.
Special thanks to Milton Wordley for suggesting this series.
First published by WBM (Wine Business Monthly) and reprinted by permission.