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Retaining Women in the Wine Industry is an Issue, But Irina’s Going Nowhere

By Monday 3 September 2018April 5th, 2020No Comments

Jane Thomson, The Fabulous Ladies’ Wine Society

Although we’ve happily reached a stage where equal numbers of women and men are graduating from viticulture and winemaking, retaining women in the Australian wine industry is another story entirely. Currently, participation rates in winemaking and viticulture are at just under 10 percent and – even more worryingly – in decline.

Most think that to increase the number of women in wine we need to work harder at attracting women into the industry. The reality is, we have little trouble attracting them, it’s keeping and supporting women in their long-term wine career that’s the challenge.

What’s going on? Why are they leaving?

This year the 2018 Australian Women in Wine Awards wants to raise industry awareness of this significant retention issue, as once again we strive to champion and celebrate the work of Australian women in wine.

WBM – Australia’s Wine Business Magazine, is a proud sponsor of the awards. In this series, some previous winners highlight challenges they have faced, what’s kept them in their careers, and what they’d like to see more of to assist women to achieve their career potential in wine.


Irina Santiago-Brown, Inkwell Wines
Winner 2015 ‘Viticulturist of the Year’

What attracted you into the wine industry?
Being able to be closer to nature, but also to be part of the whole production cycle, from growing something to transforming it into something that I love (wine!) and that makes others happy.

How many years have you been working in the industry? And did you have any other careers before that? If so, for how long?
Since 2009. Yes, I had another career before. I used to work for government, as special advisor for the Governor of the state where I’m originally from in Brazil. Before moving to Australia, I worked in Government and Government related places in charge of fostering international trade or foreign investment attraction.

What do you think are some of the innate challenges women may face in this industry that make staying in their wine career difficult?
I think the elephant in the room for women that nobody talks openly about is to able to reconcile being a mother and having a career in an industry that works around specific seasonal cycles dictated by Mother Nature. Vintage is vintage. When grapes are ripe, they need to be harvested. Kids have very different needs and schedules and mothers are only likely to succeed in the wine industry as viticulturists or winemakers if they have an incredible support structure behind them through vintage for instance.

Have you personally faced any career challenges that have made you think about leaving?
I never thought about leaving it. This was my choice and I’m happiest doing what I’m doing.

What do you think has helped you stay and progress in your career?
My career in the wine industry was my choice. This certainly helped. I think the progress is related to lots of hours of study, commitment to learn every day and improve. If you feel you know everything at any point of your life, you won’t progress and it’s unlikely you’ll improve or keep your position.

What practical steps do you think employers and the industry at large could take to retain more women?
Larger corporations could, because they have the resources for it, have some sort of support for mothers during vintage. This is a real problem and if they want to attract women they need to understand that their employees’ children can’t wait until vintage is over.

Jane Thomson is the founder of the Australian Women in Wine Awards. There’s only two weeks until entries close on Tuesday 18 September. The announcement of all the winners will occur at Australia’s first Women in Wine Symposium & Awards Day on Friday 16 November in Sydney. For full info and tickets click here

Photo: Irina Santiago-Brown with husband Dudley Brown.




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