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The Grapevine

The WSTA's views, distilled.

International Women's Day

It’s International Women’s Day and with so many talented women working in the wine and spirit trade we have a lot to celebrate.

We’ve got botanical wizards including Joanne Moore crafting gins like Bloom for Quintessential Brands, pioneering Kathy Caton distilling and championing Brighton Gin and Alex Robson who is the driving force behind the King of Soho Gin. But it’s not just Mother’s Ruin which is winning thanks to these creative chemists. Kristeen Campbell has ensured that Scotch gets in touch with its feminine side as master blender of the Famous Grouse family. Another legend in the industry is Joy Spence who has been making rum for the Appleton Estate for over twenty years. She became the first woman to hold the position of master blender in the spirits industry and is still packing a punch.

But we can’t stop there… the female talent amongst the English wine industry is bountiful. There is quite a list *intake of breathe* - Sam Linter MD and head winemaker at Bolney Wine Estate in West Sussex, Victoria Ash wine maker at Hush Heath Estate in Kent, Cherie Spriggs head wine maker at Nyetimber Vineyard in West Sussex, Corinne Seeley, head wine maker at Exton Park Vineyard in Hampshire, Emma Rice, head winemaker at Hattingley Valley and not forgetting Tamara Roberts CEO of Ridgeview Wine Estate in West Sussex,  Rebecca Furleigh joint owner of the Furleigh Estate in Dorset and Sarah Driver who jointly owns Rathfinny Wine Estate in the South Downs of Sussex….. *and exhale*. 

However the oestrogen levels noticeably drop when you look to the very top of the larger companies. In board rooms across the country we are all too often met with faces of gentlemen of a certain age. Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against gentlemen of a certain age, I’m married to one! That is not to say that sisters aren’t doing it for themselves very successfully in business, but the corps are still predominantly run by men. A lot of the boardrooms remain full of testosterone and women continue to fight for a seat round the table. At the WSTA we aren’t exempt from the issue. At the beginning of last year we had three women on the board, but this was short lived. Diana Hunter left after stepping down from her post at Conviviality and next to leave the WSTA board was Kari Daniels from Tesco, whose brilliant leadership skills meant she was promoted to chief executive of Tesco Ireland. The WSTA currently has one woman with a seat at its board table, Tamara Roberts, who was recently named Sussex Business Woman of the Year. We are set to announce another one soon.  Where are the others you might ask? Trust me we want more and will find more, but it’s a tougher proposition as the pool of senior women to pick from is just not there….yet.   

We know there are plenty of businesses striving to promote and support diversity at work. For example, Treasury Wine Estates has established a TWEforShe program to encourage gender diversity and workplace inclusion.

Many of our retailer members are also running similar schemes which support women who are trailblazers in the industry. 

But we can always do more. On International Women’s Day let’s take a moment to reflect and ask ourselves is the wine and spirit industry doing enough to create an environment where women have the confidence and are encouraged to reach for the top? There are no excuses the talent is there, so let’s ensure that our trade is paving the way for a new wave of women CEO’s.

PS if there is WSTA member with a female leader who we have missed out in consideration for a place on the board please make yourselves known.

By Lucy Panton 

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