Women in Wine—Survey Says, It’s Getting Better

The 2018 Career and Salary Survey commissioned by SevenFifty and carried out by Wine Opinions. is a really good thing. It delivers a lot of interesting background to the wine, beer and spirits industry. The part that has received the most attention, however, outlines how women and minorities are underrepresented in the industry as well as receiving less compensation. This part of the survey’s findings is particularly important.

The disparity in wages between men and women described by the survey is described this way in the Report’s top-level findings:

“average compensation is $13K higher for men than for women ($79,000 vs. $66,000) regardless of position type and seniority. That’s a wider pay gap than the national average for men and women in the U.S. labor force.”

It’s good, even critical, to know this for the same reason it’s good to know what the exact level of wealth of inequality is that exists between the top 1% and the bottom 90%: It provides us with answers to the “What”.

What’s more important, however, is to understand the “Why” and the Survey doesn’t provide answers to this question. This is not a criticism of the Survey, its methodology or the analysis contained within the report. The fact is, there is lots of debate on the WHY of wealth inequality even after so much research has gone into the issue, just as there remains lots of debate on the WHY of income inequality between men and women inside and outside the alcohol industry.

Here’s what I do know about the gender earnings gap:

  1. Women more commonly seek work in historically lower paying industries like education, nursing and social work, while men more commonly seek work in higher paying careers such as finance, technology and engineering. However, this is changing rapidly.

2, Women are the ones who have babies. Historically and today, women are the primary caregivers when it comes to children and this results in less work experience than men when they re-enter or enter the workforce. Moreover, they don’t end their careers with as much work experience or industry contacts as men who generally do not leave the workforce to care for children. This results in what some call the “Motherhood Penalty”. 

3, Women are simply paid less out of the gates. According to the American Association of University Women, if you look at women who have the same education as men and go into identical fields as men, they still get paid less in their first jobs. This is shitty because often the pay that comes with subsequent job offers is based on what a person made in their previous job.

WHAT to do about this is the next important question. I think item #1 above will take care of itself. More women than men are graduating from college in all disciplines. In fact since 1980, according to the U.S. Department of Education, women have outnumbered men when it comes to attending college. In fact, in 2017 women outnumbered men on college campuses by 56% – 44%

I’m not sure what can be done about the “Motherhood Penalty”. This income penalty is most pronounced and significant when women stay out of the workforce for a significant amount of time, not the 4 months my Kathy took off when Henry was born.

Then there is the fact that women are simply paid less out of college. Again, I don’t know why this is. Surely someone can educate me.

What I do know is that things have been significantly improving for women where the pay gap is concerned. According to Pew Research, the gap in hourly pay of full and part-time workers between men and women has fallen considerably in the past 30 years. In 1980 men made 56% more than women. Today, the gap is down to 20%. That’s a huge drop and the important gains continue.

As I think I’ve mentioned before here, my most important mentors in the wine industry have been women: Gracelyn Guyol, Sandra MacIver, Milla Handley. All were savvy, intelligent, giving entrepreneurs. It was a much more likely scenario that it would have been men that were my most important mentors in the wine industry. There were some, but by the luck of the draw, the women outnumbered the men.

So, my conclusion is simply this: be willing to mentor. As anyone who is just mildly successful. Their most important professional development was a result of their mentors. Be willing to mentor anyone who comes before you that has potential, be they men or women.

Finally, there are two organizations to be supported and to be joined that address the issue of women in wine:

Women for Winesense




2 Responses

  1. Tim Widnes - October 31, 2018


    Pease take a look at Women of the Vine & Spirits, another organization that is addressing pay inequality in the beverage industry.



  2. Michaela Rodeno - October 31, 2018

    Thanks, Tom, for the mention. Women for WineSense quickly grew into a national organization that has been supporting the development of women’s careers in the wine industry since 1990 (also welcomes “aficionados” as members and, of course, men). https://www.womenforwinesense.org

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