Women in Wine & Spirits

by Jared
 * This article first appeared here in Celebrating Women

As the business landscape in South Africa’s wine and spirits industry continues to transform in the direction of greater gender inclusivity, I asked two industry leaders to weigh in on the growing presence and role of women. Pamela Nkuna, Corporate Affairs Director for South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa at Pernod Ricard, and Melanie Campbell, Marketing Director at Edward Snell added valuable weight to the conversation.

I began by asking if the industry was in fact welcoming of women-led businesses. Both agreed outright that the industry is welcoming to women-led businesses but is still male-dominated. Nkuna told me: “A combination of empowered females and societal and industry changes have played a significant role in encouraging women to step up and take their place at the forefront of a rapidly changing spirits and wine sector.

Pernod Ricard South Africa contributes to this transformation by creating equal opportunities for both men and women-led businesses outside the traditional spirits and wine sector to contribute to the industry’s growth through its Phakamisa ispirit initiative.”

Pamela Nkuna

Pamela Nkuna

Talking about the opportunities and benefits for women working within the spirits and wine sector, Campbell outlined several: “There is the opportunity for women to shape a historically masculine industry to best represent female insights and needs in products – particularly where products are not sold on functional benefits alone but rich emotional iconography and branded experiences akin to many luxury brands.

Benefits to the industry of having women include a greater deal of empathy in leadership helping to build richer organisational cultures, which motivate employees beyond the pay check. Women are also known to de-risk organisations and drive a greater focus on CSR. With the industry under pressure to showcase leadership in corporate citizenship and the consumption of alcohol, this should come in handy.”

What of the areas where South Africa still needs to grow? Campbell continued: “South Africa could still benefit from understanding that there is a shift from employee engagement to employee thriving – the ability to unlock discretionary energy in favour of meaningful work.”

Melanie Campbell

Campbell shared with me Edward Snell’s intention to focus on the following areas: being more flexible on employee benefit/package composition, being more flexible on workplace and time constructs, being more active in encouraging balanced well-being (physical, mental and social), being more empathetic to employee needs outside of formal remuneration constructs and be more transparent on grades, benefits, and development/growth required to move to the next level.

In her current role as Chairperson of the South African Liquor Brand Owners Association (SALBA) Nkuna adds valuable insight: “Although the country has made significant progress toward achieving gender equality in the spirits and wine sector, women still face numerous challenges. For example, the female unemployment rate remains higher than the male unemployment rate, indicating the existing disparities between men and women. This shows that women still lag in terms of socio-economic opportunities.”

Thankfully there seems to be a shift in companies understanding the need. Nkuna continued: “Pernod Ricard introduced an internal Women Leadership Programme. This one-year coaching programme supports female leaders within the Pernod Ricard organisation to identify their leadership challenges – raising self-awareness on limiting beliefs and strengths, as well as external constraints and enablers, all while connecting them with other female leaders in a trustful, supporting, and challenging atmosphere.”

Campbell commented that she’d been blessed to be surrounded by remarkable men who have supported her on my journey: “Thank you to those men who: mirrored great leadership but empowered me to be me, showed chivalry in the corridor but argued bravely and fairly in the boardroom, complimented me but never objectified me, pushed me and believed in me.”

Awards and opportunities

  • Look out for the annual LUMO Awards – two of the four awards recognise women in the industry: “Woman Winemaker of the Year” or “Woman Distiller of the Year”. lumoawards.com
  • Salome Buys-Vermeulen from Lozärn Wines has now held the title of Woman Winemaker of the Year for two years running, and stands out not only for her ability but also for championing the rare Carménère variety. lozarn.co.za
  • Launched by Jordan Wine Estate’s Kathy Jordan, the Women in Wine Initiative selects previously disadvantaged female candidates with a passion to pursue a career in the wine industry and offers opportunities in wine education, wine journalism, wine marketing or wine hospitality. Contact the Premium Independent Wineries of South Africa for info. piwosa.com

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