This week, a groundbreaking survey of women in the wine industry highlighted some truly dismal stats around the big issues of pay gaps, sexism, maternity leave and advancement. Participation wise, women are a minority in viticulture and winemaking (~10% according to Wine Australia) and there are no reliable statistics for other areas like research, marketing or tourism.
We can however look at the media output and use this as an example to draw attention to gender issues in wine. Unsurprisingly, a quick count of five Australian wine magazines shows on average that only 25% of content is written by women.
I’ve combed through three issues of the magazines below, counting feature articles and noting the gender of the writer. I understand this is not a huge sample size but its enough (for the minute) to make a point. I’d be very happy to be proved wrong if you have a collection of back issues. This is just a summary, scroll down for the detailed figures:
- Halliday Magazine (female editor) – 47% female writers
- Wine & Viticulture Journal (female editor) – 40% female writers
- Grapegrower & Winemaker (male editor) – 21% female writers
- Gourmet Traveller Wine (female editor) – 15% female writers
- Wine Business Monthly (male editor) – 6% female writers
Similar figures appear to be reflected in newspapers although it’s harder to count on a national level.
Why Is This Important?
Wine media is the the way our industry talks to the people & businesses within it, its consumers and its future employees, leaders, innovators and contributors. For our industry to maintain and/ or improve competitiveness, communications should logically reflect to a greater extent the diversity of our society.
The Common Arguments
Without reliable data we have to assume that there are fewer female journalists and less female wine and viticulture academics. At 28% there are certainly fewer female MW’s. But they do exist and there is, I should think, sufficient numbers of female wine communicators to contribute content well above the averages noted in the magazines surveyed. If you think this is about supply the Halliday Magazine and W&V show that equal representation is possible.
If you think this is about talent then you need to think harder. This is an argument which proposes that men get the jobs because they’re smarter; that their merit elevates them in a meritocracy. What is a meritocracy? A brilliant concept that helpfully lets us believe that the people doing the work currently are unmatched in their ability, even though measuring ability is a bit tricky. It also assumes that the person hiring subordinates have no bias (in hiring people who are like them) and that they have no interest in maintaining the status quo. It is worth mentioning that meritocracies exist in female dominated industries too.
Quotas aim to balance gender splits in unbalanced environments – obviously this is controversial: if an editor (in this case) implements a quota framework it is seen to discriminate against men. By this logic, it’s unacceptable for a man to lose a job because of a quota, but it’s somehow acceptable for a women to be subjected to invisible discriminations – or never get the job in the first place. I’m not saying quotas are a perfect solution – but whatever is holding the numbers down I don’t think it’s the lack of talent. I suspect it is complicated but until more research identifies the factors, I’m limited to speculation.
So – speculation aside for the minute, why should our media industry aspire to a equality?
- Leading by example:
Editors & publishers answer to their readership and the wider industry. The industry needs to demand more equal representation and the editors need to implement it. It’s 2016. Set an example. Make it policy. Choose it. Just because it’s unregulated & historically ‘normal’ doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do better. Women are equally capable of doing the work, so it follows that they should be doing an equal amount of that work.
- Diverse content
And surely, there’s something in the idea that a diverse group of writers & contributors (not just more women of course, but ethnic diversity too) will make for a better magazine? Better magazines make more money and from what I’m hearing, everyone needs more money. It appears to me these magazines are beating their drums harder and harder, without considering they could add another one.
- Women in wine in general
I’m talking about media specifically but it’s just one aspect of an industry wide imbalance. In context, what do we have to offer the next generation, not to mention the current one?
Imagine you’re called upon to give a talk to a group of girls about the wine industry – to promote it and provide some insights on what makes wine or viticulture a solid career option. What would you say?
‘’Our industry is full of passionate winemakers – mostly men, passionate viticulturists – mostly men, passionate wine communicators – mostly men too. But they’re so passionate! And often very nice! You’ll work harder to be seen to do the same amount as your male colleagues, it’ll be harder to advance, you’ll probably experience various forms of everyday sexism, you’ll get paid roughly 20% less than your male colleagues*. And, then if you move into a life phase involving having children, you’ll struggle to keep your job, even though it’s technically illegal to move you out of it’’.
If that was 18 year old me sitting there, I would not want to fight that fight.
To the people who are sitting back in their chairs thinking ‘god this women is a whiner’ I ask you one question: what would you say if one of those girls was your daughter/sister/friend? How do you justify workplace inequality in 2016? The lack of mentors? The disconnect between a young woman’s effort and the opportunity for career advancement? Unfortunately to bring attention to this situation does require some solid bitching. If you can explain to me how keeping women at a low percentage of the workforce will keep our industry pushing ahead, I’d love to hear it.
It makes me wonder, if the editors all just said ‘yep, from now on 50% of content will be written by women’ what would happen? Not much outwardly. But, it would create an invisible yet fundamental change which gives women in our industry something to get excited about, rather than fight for.
I, for one would welcome the change.
(Thanks to Tessa Brown & Sheridan Wright for their editing prowess)
I’ve tried to use the most recent issues however I am missing a few – particularly the W&V and WBM copies. The consumer magazines are easier to count as each article is written by one person only. It’s worth noting however that GTW has 6 men on it’s wine tasting panel, no women. GG&W is tricky as its difficult to decipher if the article is paid editorial (in exchange for ad space), so I suspect there is a grey area here. W&V publishes the academic research where often 3-6 authors are noted, I’ve counted any female participation as equivalent to a solo female author – which could possibly skew the statistics.