There seems to be no issue attracting women to the wine industry with university graduates evenly split.

Yet women represent just 30 per cent of the sector and are in the minority across all roles — from the vineyard to the boardroom.

But a new report commissioned by Wine Australia shows that progress is being made, albeit slowly.

Jane Thomson OAM, founder of the Fabulous Ladies’ Wine Society, has been advocating for diversity and inclusion in the wine industry.(ABC Rural: Laurissa Smith)

The study found nationally 16 per cent of women are employed in a winemaking role and 21 per cent of Australia’s viticulturalists are women.

Both figures have virtually doubled since the same research was carried out a decade ago.

Liz Waters, the organisation’s chief operating officer, said it was encouraging.

“We are delighted that all of the numbers are better, as in they’ve all increased, particularly women CEOs in the wine sector,” Dr Water said.

While women in management roles in the industry has increased, equal pay has not.

According to the Australian Tax Office, women earn $14,000 on average less than men as a winemaker and $18,000 less as a viticulturalist.

Corrina Wright’s family has been involved in the wine industry for more than 180 years in South Australia’s McLaren Vale.(Supplied: Corinna Wright)

Corrina Wright is a South Australian winemaker and sits on Grape and Wine Australia’s Diversity and Equality in Wine Committee. 

“We need a whole of industry effort and it’s really pleasing that Wine Australia has decided to embark on a fair bit of research,” she said.

“I think paying people correctly to start with might help.”

The Fabulous Ladies’ Wine Society on a sparkling wine tour of northern Tasmania.(ABC Rural:  Laurissa Smith)

Jane Thomson OAM, founder of Australian Women in Wine, agreed the lack of action addressing gender diversity had been woeful.

“It’s just very tough for women in the wine industry,” she said.

“I know that the women I’ve worked with over 10 years and through my own personal experience [find] it’s a very misogynistic industry to work in.

“Sadly, because there’s no overarching strategy to address this, it hasn’t moved very fast.”

Gender imbalance in the field 

Southern New South Wales viticulturalist Kristy Bartrop is surprised by the lack of women in the industry in her region.(ABC Rural: Emily Doak)

Kristy Bartrop is a viticulturalist with Southern Premium Vineyards and is involved in managing thousands of hectares of grapes in the Riverina region of New South Wales.

“I don’t really know that many women who are working in the viticulture area locally, maybe less than 10 and given the size of the industry that’s not many people,” she said.

Ms Bartrop said employers needed to consider the value of gender diversity if more women wanted to take leading roles in the sector.

“Having everyone thinking, looking, and being the same, you don’t tend to get that diversity of innovation that comes from having a diverse workforce,” she said.

Tasmania leading the field

Figures published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Wine Australia late last year show that Tasmania recorded the highest growth rates of females in both winemaking and grape-growing roles between 2011 and 2021. 

In winemaking, female participation increased by 115 per cent to represent 40 per cent in total.

Wine Tasmania chief executive Sheralee Davies said the figures showed how inclusive and progressive the state’s wine community was.

“Over the past decade and beyond, we’ve been seeing people moving into Tasmania’s regional areas to be part of the wine sector, including a lot of young families,” she said.

“We’ve also seen many female-owned wine businesses start and grow over the same timeframe.

“There’s a conscious focus on encouraging diversity across the wine sector, reflected in wine sector committees, professional development programs, trade visitation programs, and more.”

Yael Sandler is the assistant winemaker at Josef Chromy Wines, on the outskirts of Launceston in northern Tasmania.

Winemaker Yael Sandler says she feels supported working in the wine industry in Tasmania.(ABC Rural: Laurissa Smith)

“I’m proud to be part of this industry here in Tassie,” she said.

“My boss also has a young family with young children.

“When we’re out for vintage for a few intense weeks, our families feel that.

“I do believe that you need support back home, from your male or female partner.”

Assistant winemaker Yael Sandler running a sparkling masterclass for the Fabulous Ladies’ Wine Society.(ABC Rural: Laurissa Smith)

Wine Australia plans to embark on a scoping study to address some of the challenges facing women in the wine sector.

Dr Waters said the research would also draw from success stories in other industries around gender diversity.

“Strategies that have worked and resources that are helpful,” she said.

“There are so many studies again and again [showing] how diversity strengthens organisations.”

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