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What’s going on? Why are women leaving the Australian wine industry?

By Monday 3 September 2018No 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.


Emma Norbiato, Calabria Family Wines
Winner 2016 ‘Winemaker of the Year’

What attracted you into the wine industry?
The combination between agriculture science and art really suits my personality, I was attracted to not having to sit at a desk all day! The seasonal challenges keep the role interesting, and I love the opportunity to create.

How many years have you been working in the industry? And did you have any other careers before that? If so, for how long?
I left school and commenced studying Wine Science, my first vintage was in 1999.

What do you think are some of the innate challenges women may face in this industry that make staying in their wine career difficult?
The ‘last man standing’ or macho culture has always been there. In essence, vintage stops for no one (in many ways this is true), but if you can’t or don’t want to put your job above all else it can be hard to see your career path. The trick is working smarter, being flexible and finding an employer you can share that dialogue with.

Have you personally faced any career challenges that have made you think about leaving?
When my first child was born I was at a bit of a crossroads as to how I could make this career work. I even thought perhaps I should re-train as a dietician. Fortunately, I found a path to stay in the industry, working part time and keeping my hand in the game until I was ready to give more.

What do you think has helped you stay and progress in your career?
Undoubtedly the first answer to this is support. The second I start to think or believe I am doing this on my own I think I’ll be done. Support from my employer and colleagues, and of course support from my family. I also gain a lot of strength from meeting other women who have been in the industry longer than me, when I meet the likes of Wendy Cameron, Fiona Donald, Sue Hodder… just to name a few… I feel inspired.

What practical steps do you think employers and the industry at large could take to retain more women?
Flexible work arrangements have been the key for me, along with open and honest dialogue, with an open minded and supportive employer is invaluable. To the women – just be yourself, the rest will fall into place.

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: The moment Emma heard she had won the award in 2016.

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