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  • Wine's Glass Ceiling And The Winery Working To Shatter It

    Forbes Cynthia

    Kristi Faulkn­er for Forbes​.com

    It is irony writ large that the prod­ucts women are most pas­sion­ate about are often made and sold by com­pa­nies who are hos­tile to their own female tal­ent. The hyper-com­pet­i­tive fash­ion indus­try draws women to its top schools at a female/​male ratio as high as 99-to‑1, but the par­a­digm is not reflect­ed in fashion’s work­force. An analy­sis of the top fash­ion brands reveals that men are more like­ly to serve in lead­er­ship roles, most espe­cial­ly in the c‑suite.

    Women so dri­ven by their pas­sion for wine that they pur­sue viti­cul­ture as a career face the same obsta­cle as their friends study­ing fash­ion. The dom­i­na­tion of men in wine­mak­ing has been entrenched for a cen­tu­ry, even as the major­i­ty of wine sales are attrib­uted to women. From bars to book club to baby show­ers, have you ever been to a gath­er­ing of women that didn’t fea­ture wine? 

    Scan the class­rooms of UC Davis, con­sid­ered by many to be the best wine-mak­ing and wine-busi­ness school in the coun­try, and you’ll see women out­num­ber men in its Viti­cul­ture and Enol­o­gy pro­gram. But fol­low those stu­dents off to their jobs after grad­u­a­tion, and some­how the women evap­o­rate like the angel’s share of a barrel. 

    Dr. Lucia Gilbert, a pro­fes­sor at San­ta Clara Uni­ver­si­ty and an expert on the top­ic of women and wine, esti­mates that of the 4000+ winer­ies in Cal­i­for­nia, just 10% have a woman as their lead wine­mak­er. Sad­ly, in terms of busi­ness leads, there are zero female CEOs run­ning winer­ies pro­duc­ing between 100,000 and 500,000 cas­es annu­al­ly, accord­ing to The Red Cab­i­net, a non­prof­it peer orga­ni­za­tion of women in wine. Though there is a bright spot in the super­size winer­ies that pro­duce up to a mil­lion cas­es per year where 25% of chief exec­u­tives are women. 

    One win­ery of dis­tinc­tion in Cal­i­for­nia is work­ing hard to change the ratio of women in wine. J. Lohr Vine­yards & Wines has deeply con­sid­ered why women get into the wine indus­try, and how to sup­port their jour­ney once they break in. Like many winer­ies, J. Lohr is fam­i­ly-owned, and still helmed by a man, but J. Lohr is also the proud home to two of the most high­ly-regard­ed women lead­ers in wine: Kris­ten Barn­his­el, wine­mak­er, and Cyn­thia Lohr, co-own­er and brand advocate. 

    J. Lohr has made a com­mit­ment to devel­op­ing women as con­sumers and women as vint­ners with its wild­ly suc­cess­ful #JLOHRWOMEN ini­tia­tive. Edu­cat­ing young women, embrac­ing them at every lev­el of the busi­ness, and guid­ing them on their jour­ney as young pro­fes­sion­als,” says Rhon­da Motil, a VP at the win­ery, is a vital part of our ded­i­ca­tion to our craft.” 

    An appre­ci­a­tion for diver­si­ty and female lead­er­ship is embod­ied by J. Lohr’s acclaimed wine­mak­er, Kris­ten Barn­his­el, the woman respon­si­ble for devel­op­ing the vineyard’s white wine port­fo­lio. If you’ve ever enjoyed the J. Lohr Estate River­stone Chardon­nay, one of the top five chardon­nays in the US, you can thank Barnhisel’s gift­ed palate and tech­ni­cal skill for pro­duc­ing it. 

    While the larg­er, more cor­po­rate winer­ies like Con­stel­la­tion Brands, E. & J. Gal­lo and Trea­sury Wine Estates have pro­fes­sion­al advance­ment pro­grams for their female employ­ees, J. Lohr approach­es its women’s ini­tia­tive in a style more befit­ting of a small­er, fam­i­ly-owned enter­prise. From the vine­yards to the cel­lars, to the offices, and in the vis­i­tor cen­ters, J. Lohr inspires and pro­motes its tal­ent fair­ly, with­out regard to sex. Scan the win­ery and you’ll see women lead­ing in the vine­yard and in the back office. 

    The winery’s phil­an­thropic activ­i­ty works to advance women through edu­ca­tion and men­tor­ing and throws it sup­port behind women’s devel­op­ment orga­ni­za­tions like Dream Big Dar­ling, Women of the Vine and Spir­its, and Women for WineSense.

    You’d be sur­prised how many winer­ies don’t seem to rec­og­nize the fact that 6 out of 10 wine con­sumers are women, or that women are will­ing to pay more for a wine they love. J. Lohr, by con­trast, wel­comes them. #JLOHRWOMEN has attract­ed a sig­nif­i­cant social media fol­low­ing and engages the audi­ence with authen­tic dia­logue, delight­ful food-friend­ly lifestyle con­tent and cap­ti­vat­ing Insta­gram sto­ries. Per­haps J. Lohr’s crown­ing achieve­ment is J. Lohr Carol’s Vine­yard Caber­net Sauvi­gnon, a splen­did release award­ed 91 points by Wine Spec­ta­tor and 100% designed to ben­e­fit women. 

    The pro­ceeds from Carol’s Vine­yard sup­port breast can­cer patients, a deeply per­son­al cause for the Lohr fam­i­ly. Three dol­lars from every bot­tle sold goes towards ear­ly breast can­cer detec­tion. The ini­tia­tive has con­tributed fund­ing for thou­sands of women who oth­er­wise would not be able to afford mam­mo­grams and pro­vides for the spe­cial deliv­ery of HOPE Kits (a gift box of com­fort­ing items) to women under­go­ing breast can­cer treat­ment. Breast can­cer res­onates with all peo­ple, not just women,” says Motil. It impacts every­one.” Carol’s Vine­yard is a toast and a trib­ute to Car­ol Lohr – Jer­ry Lohr’s wife, and Cyn­thia Lohr’s mother. 

    Women who love wine are lov­ing #JLOHRWOMEN. And this win­ery is lov­ing them back. 

    Read the full arti­cle here.

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