Women now make up approximately 50 per cent of the workforce in New Zealand wine production but significantly less at the board level of the industry.
To address this lack of balance, Sarah Szegota spear headed the formation of Women in Wine NZ in 2016, which has now launched another positive for the industry – the new Women in Wine Pilot Mentoring Programme launched on 11 July this year.
“Initially it will give one woman from each of the country’s nine wine regions a chance to be paired in a mentoring relationship with an experienced female mentor from the industry and we hope it will grow to include more women and a wider range of mentors going forward,” says Szegota, who is the global communications and PR manager for Villa Maria Wines.
This role follows on from her work in communications at New Zealand Winegrowers where she planted the seeds that have grown to give women more significant inclusion at board level.
“When I returned to work after having my daughter in 2016, my colleague and I read Meininger’s Wine Business International’s survey on the findings of the experience of women in the wine industry around the world.
“The results weren’t overly positive and we knew how many capable and astute women there are working in the New Zealand wine industry, and realised that none of them had put themselves forward as nominees in the NZ Winegrowers board elections.”
That same year, following an email asking for greater involvement from small wine regions, a more diverse cultural mix of people and more gender balance, NZ Winegrowers appointed two women to their board. They are Katherine Jacobs of Big Sky Wines on Te Muna Road in Martinborough and Rachel Taulelei, CEO of Kono Beverages and a former US trade commissioner.
Szegota loves working in wine because of the passion of those in the industry and while she acknowledges that gender imbalance is less pronounced in New Zealand than in many traditional winemaking countries, she is keen to see more balance going forward.
“Initiatives such as Women in Wine give our peers the access to advice, perspective, networking, long-lasting relationships, confidence, and encouragement. Everything required to help tip the balance of women putting their hands up to take the big jobs and the directorships.
“This is something I would love to see balanced out more.”