The SOMM Journal

August / September 2017

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Page 20 of 148

20 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER { one woman's view } Karen MacNeil is the author of The Wine Bible and the editor of WineSpeed. THE SCENE: AN EXPENSIVE, 3-star New York restaurant. I was dining with a friend, a women executive in the food business. To get us started, she ordered the chef 's signature appetizers and asked me to choose a wine. I did—a white Burgundy—then I returned to our conversation. But within seconds I realized the waiter hadn't gone away. He had stepped slightly behind me. Leaning down so that only I could hear, he said quietly but firmly, "Madame, I regret to inform you that you've made an unwise choice of a wine." Okay, that true story happened 25 years ago, and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't happen today. But I've never for - gotten how that man made me feel—a slightly panicked mixture of anger, embarrassment and powerlessness. Worst of all, he'd managed to blindside me using my own professional strength (wine) against me. Recently, in preparation for a speech I'm giving at the national conference of Women for WineSense, I've thought a lot about the status of women in the wine industry. I look at my colleagues—Debra Meiburg and Jeannie Cho Lee in Hong Kong, Jancis Robinson, Sarah Kemp, Sarah Jane Evans and so many other women in the U.K., plus dozens of women at the top of their games in the wine industry in the U.S., and around the world—and I think: The wine industry is a shining light. Gender bias (at least in our industry) is finally a thing of the past. But wait. Let's consider the holy grail—money. The most frequently cited figure on the gender wage gap in the United States, accord - ing to a recent analysis in Bloomberg Businessweek (June 26, 2017) is that full time working American women earn roughly 80 percent of what mean do—a figure that's remained relatively unchanged for the last 20 years. It's not clear where the wine industry stacks up against this fact. It would be interesting to know if any large American wine companies—say, Constellation, Gallo or Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits—have done analyses of salaries and gender within their companies. On a more granular level, GuildSomm has tracked sommelier salaries for the last three years. The most recent survey—2016—based on 1,134 respondents, revealed that the median income of female sommeliers ($58,000) was $7,000 less than the median income for male sommeliers ($65,000). Wrote Geoff Kruth, President of GuildSomm, "I have looked at the data to see if other factors could be accounting for this, such as a higher percentage of female respondents with fewer years of experience . . . However, not this, nor anything else I've looked at accounts for the discrepancy, and we believe the gender pay gap [among sommeliers] is a real phenomenon." My gut reaction is that the gender pay gap might be even more extreme in other parts of the wine industry: sales, marketing, winemaking, viticulture, journalism. It's time to change that. It's time to ask for more and not settle for less. And if you're in a position of authority, it's time to pay the women around you more than they ask for. Because you've been there. PHOTO: WAEWKID VIA THINKSTOCK A Woman's Worth GENDER, MONEY AND THE WINE INDUSTRY by Karen MacNeil

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