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  • Women in Wine: Cynthia Lohr at New Hampshire Wine Week

    Valuing The Work Of Women In Wine: Lessons From New Hampshire

    Cynthia Lohr

    By Cathy Huyghe for Forbes​.com

    Full arti­cle

    Some­times an oppor­tu­ni­ty cross­es your desk that is just too good to pass up.

    Even if it means trav­el­ing to New Hamp­shire in the dead of winter.

    That’s exact­ly how it felt to receive an invi­ta­tion to attend the annu­al Wine Week host­ed by the New Hamp­shire Liquor Com­mis­sion (NHLC), whose pro­gram this year fea­tured the theme of Women in Wine, in par­tic­u­lar Cristi­na Mar­i­ani-May, CEO of Ban­fi Vint­ners in Tus­cany; Gina Gal­lo, third gen­er­a­tion wine­grow­er with E&J Gal­lo Win­ery; Cyn­thia Lohr, co-own­er of J. Lohr Vine­yards; and Dr. Lau­ra Cate­na, a fourth gen­er­a­tion Argen­tine vint­ner with Bode­ga Cate­na Zap­a­ta and her own Luca Win­ery in Men­doza, Argentina.

    The oppor­tu­ni­ty to speak with them, indi­vid­u­al­ly and alto­geth­er, was rare and val­ued, espe­cial­ly in the con­text of a dia­logue around women in the wine indus­try (a per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al focus of mine this year in par­tic­u­lar). I now know to also add Nicole Bras­sard Jor­dan, Direc­tor of Mar­ket­ing, Mer­chan­dis­ing and Ware­hous­ing for the NHLC, to my run­ning list of accom­plished women to watch and to hear.

    The high­lights below are my take­aways from the event, and they dove­tail with con­ver­sa­tion over­all about women in the indus­try. I’ve orga­nized the take­aways into two parts — first, two fun­da­men­tal com­po­nents of effec­tive dia­logue on the top­ic, and then two areas of con­cern and need for improvement.

    Let’s start with two fac­tors that facil­i­tate a pro­duc­tive dia­logue: the par­tic­i­pa­tion of men at the table, and the voice of younger peo­ple whose own expe­ri­ence in the indus­try so far has been inclu­sive and supportive.

    Men and Young Peo­ple at the Table

    Cer­tain­ly this was a con­ver­sa­tion about the advance­ment of women. Just as cer­tain­ly, it was about encour­ag­ing and wel­com­ing the par­tic­i­pa­tion of men. There is, I believe, a sin­cere inter­est in advanc­ing more women to posi­tions of equal­i­ty — equal in terms of pay, rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and lead­er­ship roles. Giv­en that most deci­sion-mak­ing roles in the indus­try are cur­rent­ly held by men, their active par­tic­i­pa­tion is obvi­ous­ly ele­men­tal in order to effect the change.

    There was also a sen­si­tiv­i­ty toward the men in our work­places who con­tribute to a sup­port­ive and encour­ag­ing envi­ron­ment for us all, and who are impact­ed by the reper­cus­sions of the #MeToo move­ment (and its back­lash) in the sense that they are now cau­tious and gun shy in their inter­ac­tion with women, even about giv­ing com­pli­ments, for fear of them being misconstrued.

    It’s a real con­cern, but with­draw­ing from dia­logue won’t help. We need to keep talk­ing. And we prob­a­bly all need to just take a breath.

    A breath of fresh air came from young peo­ple I spoke with, who expressed relief that the con­ver­sa­tion was­n’t neg­a­tive toward men and that, instead, there was an aware­ness of keep­ing the pen­du­lum from swing­ing too far in the oppo­site direc­tion. They are new to the indus­try and, as an indi­ca­tion of hope for what’s to come, they feel sup­port­ed, heard, and respect­ed in their roles.

    Pay Equal­i­ty and Own­ing Our Voice

    Absolute­ly, there are well-inten­tioned men and women through­out the indus­try, and exam­ples of suc­cess­ful and sat­is­fy­ing roles that women occupy.

    There’s also absolute­ly a gap, and most of us are hov­er­ing over that gap with­out know­ing how to move forward.

    The gap is between inten­tion and exe­cu­tion — between the inten­tion for women to be equal con­trib­u­tors and part­ners in the busi­ness of wine, and the actu­al, oper­a­tional exe­cu­tion of that intention.

    How do all of us, not just some of us, get to the oth­er side of the gap?

    We can start with learn­ing from the exam­ples of those who have reached the oth­er side, and high­light­ing them. We need more of those exam­ples, and we need to be part of them to know that they’re rel­e­vant to us personally.

    In addi­tion, we can take con­crete steps toward improv­ing two areas of con­cern: income dis­crep­an­cies and own­ing our voice.

    Cyn­thia Lohr, a strong advo­cate of wom­en’s advance­ment whose pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ence is root­ed in the tech indus­try, expressed the need to address the pay gap between women and men. Lau­ra Cate­na also spoke of address­ing that gap with­in her own com­pa­ny: once she point­ed out that the dis­crep­an­cy exist­ed among employ­ees, her father imme­di­ate­ly endorsed its cor­rec­tion. He was ready and will­ing; the cat­a­lyst was her point­ing it out.

    It seems like a by-the-num­bers change for a busi­ness to make — and it is — and com­pa­nies who proac­tive­ly exe­cute the change can serve as mod­els for oth­ers to follow.

    There is a less obvi­ous fac­tor also at play here, how­ev­er: own­ing our voice, and the con­fi­dence to ask for the pay raise our­selves when there isn’t a senior per­son advo­cat­ing for it on our behalf. It’s a psy­cho­log­i­cal bar­ri­er that oth­er women have point­ed out, and I’ve expe­ri­enced myself, that is often root­ed in a lack of expo­sure to female role mod­els who them­selves were paid fair­ly and equal­ly for their work. There just were — are — not very many of them for us to emu­late or learn from. So own­ing the voice that advo­cates on our own behalves is a learned behav­ior and one that does­n’t feel imme­di­ate­ly nat­ur­al, not after decades of inter­nal­iz­ing the mes­sage that the work women do is val­ued less in dol­lar amounts.

    For that rea­son, I believe that finan­cial edu­ca­tion can be a cen­tral tenet of the move­ment to advance more women in the wine indus­try: it’s about the con­fi­dence to own our voice about the val­ue we bring to the busi­ness of wine.

    The road ahead in this con­ver­sa­tion is long and it won’t always be smooth. But, as I wit­nessed in New Hamp­shire last week, we already have momen­tum that is fueled by good inten­tions. The work now is to exe­cute on the big­ger scale.

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