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Male-Dominated Wine Summit ‘Embarrassing’

By Wednesday 31 May 2023June 15th, 20238 Comments

Jane Thomson, founder of The Fabulous Ladies’ Wine Society, has slammed the lack of women involved in an industry summit of CEOs and managing directors to discuss the challenges facing the wine sector.

The meeting was hosted by Wine Australia earlier this month.

The group released a statement today signed by 16 members of the group, only one of whom is female – Brigid Nolan of The Wine Group.

“So a bunch of middle-aged, cisgender white guys have once again formed a committee to determine the future of the Australian wine industry,” Jane says in a statement to WBM.

“Out of the 16 ‘wine bosses’ who met at the invitation of Wine Australia (I believe it may actually have been 20? But only 16 signed the statement), only one was a woman.

“And yet again, the issue of diversity and equality is nowhere to be seen on their agenda.

“How on earth is this still happening?

“It’s actually an embarrassment.

“Worse still, this as yet unnamed and unjustified committee (do we even need it? We have national, state and regional bodies already) of ‘bosses’ believes we have already achieved a …diverse and talented sector.

“Diverse? How can they be this wilfully ignorant?

“And did they not even realise how ridiculous that would sound coming from a group of this makeup?

“Wine Australia has budgeted zero dollars to tackle the issue of diversity in 2023.

“But somehow it can still find the money to create new committees of powerful men to help determine our future.

“This needs to change.”

In response to the criticism, Wine Australia CEO Martin Cole says, “At Wine Australia, we engage the Australian grape and wine community broadly and in a number of ways to inform our priorities and ensure grapegrowers, winemakers and exporters are getting benefit from the levies they pay.

“The CEO Group is just one of many diverse groups that Wine Australia is consulting with in support of the development of a ‘One Sector Plan’ with Australian Grape & Wine.

“These consultations include representative industry bodies, state and regional associations, government, grower groups and individual levy payers.”

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  • Kevin Cole says:

    Wow… Like wine cares who or what makes it…

  • Katie Loxton says:

    When Jane Thompson is personally responsible for the harvesting, winemaking, and distribution of millions of litres of Australian wine, she can have a seat at the table. Until then, let the CEO’s of those companies work out how to fix the mess that they have made

    • Jane Thomson says:

      You’ve missed the point entirely. I’m not asking for a seat at the table. I’m calling out a lack of diversity amongst those asked to make decisions that affect all of us.

      • Katie Loxton says:

        So you think that the CEO’s of these companies, who just happen to be mainly people who have first names which could be interpreted as being “male”, don’t deserve to be there? Or should they have virtue signalled, and sent a bunch of middle management with diverse backgrounds such as ethnicity, sexual preferences, disabilities and religious beliefs?
        However, before lambasting them all in one foul swoop, did you ask all them all individually if they identify as non-binary or care to put a label on themselves at all?
        To be honest the whole thing reeks of another industry acronym that is going to achieve diddly squat and then just go back to the status quo.

        • Jane Thomson says:

          I am not “lambasting” the individuals involved. I have fiercely criticised the decision made by Wine Australia to determine the future of our industry by gathering together a group of white, male CEOs. Please read what’s actually there rather than accusing me of things I have not said.

          “So you think…” reveals your own personal assumptions about me, and your assertions are not facts. You don’t know what I think because my critique here doesn’t cover what I think of the CEO’s of these companies. And the assumptions you make are wrong.

          I wish you the best Katie. Sad to know you don’t feel the same about what’s happened here.

          • Hannah Jenkins says:

            Ease up on Katie there Jane. From my understanding of it all, she is just trying to say why do women need to come in and clean up after men have made a gigantic mess of it all?

  • Ron Brady says:

    This should not be a discussion about gender at all, this needs to be a broad discussion where the total wine industry benefits, if the industry can band together. We may need to look at the structure of the meeting and if the organizers asked for CEOs, then so be it. I agree totally that different perspectives are vital for growth in ideas. I do not subscribe to have a certain amount of gender numbers on a committee I just want to see brilliant ideas come out and our industry starts to gain more traction in a positive way. In my 35 years’ experience in this industry, I have not seen the large public companies and family-owned wineries come together on a plan in a positive way and this needs to change.

    • Jane Thomson says:

      “I agree totally that different perspectives are vital for growth in ideas.” How do you propose we get these without a diverse makeup of decision makers? I would argue nothing has changed in 35 years because – as this week as shown – we keep doing things the same way, and we keep asking for leadership and decisions from the same group of people. Our lack of diversity at the top level is holding us back.

      We definitely need the best people in positions of power and decision making, with ideas and strategies that deliver the goods. It shouldn’t matter what their gender, skin colour or sexual orientation is. But it does. It matters. Because you’ll never get women, people of colour or anyone from the LGBTQI+ community in these roles just based on “merit”. The current power holders are not there based on merit either. They’re there based on PRIVILEGE. If it was a truly merit based system you’d already see diversity everywhere. I’m not saying the people currently in these positions don’t have credentials or experience or a valid reason for holding their role. I am saying, however, that if it was only based on merit you’d see a much different line up already.

      Thanks too, Ron, for sharing your belief on the importance (or lack thereof) of having structures like gender quotas in place, but the research evidence is against you on this one. Having policies and targets for inclusion is actually the best and fastest way to achieve diversity. And there is significant financial reward for those companies and sectors who do this. Research keeps showing this over and over. There are plenty of studies I could share here but perhaps these articles by McKinsey are the most succinct (just cut and paste them into your browser if you’re keen to read them.)

      The total wine industry will only benefit when the total wine industry is fully represented in positions of power.

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