Women in Wine Need Sponsors More Than Mentors | Wine Enthusiast
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Women in Wine Need Sponsors More Than Mentors

More than 120 women gathered  for the six annual Women in Wine Leadership Symposium sponsored by Winebow Group and produced by Cornerstone Communications. Women from all aspects of the wine and spirits industry came to learn how Financial Times’ Jancis Robinson, whose wine columns earned her an honor from the queen of England, award-winning journalist Dorothy Gaiter and other females are fracturing the glass ceiling.

Robinson, the first person to earn a Master of Wine who was not in the wine trade, cautioned the audience of restaurateurs, retailers, distributors and importers to, “be nice to everyone on the way up because you don’t know who you’ll meet on the way down.”

When she was named “Man of the Year” in 1999 by Decanter, the English wine magazine, she suggested the title of the award be changed. Of the 33 people named “Man of the Year” by the magazine, only four have been women.

On the cultivating diversity panel, Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon of Catalyst, the nonprofit organization that focuses on women’s progress in the workplace, suggested women did not need mentors. “What women really need is a sponsor. A sponsor is someone who will talk you up. They put you forward (for projects, positions, promotions). Sponsors are absolutely essential.

“But women are less likely to get sponsored. And if they get sponsors, the sponsors are at lower levels,” she told the audience. While women as a whole make up roughly 20 percent of the industry’s workforce, the picture is even bleaker for women of color.

In July, the National Women’s Law Center found that black women working full time earn 63 cents for every dollar earned by white men. Nationally, women of all races working full time, year-round are paid an average of 80 cents for every $1 earned by white men. This reality shows that all women are affected by the gender wage gap.

Cheron Cowan is general manager and wine director of New York’s Harold’s Meat + Three restaurant. Cowan is a certified sommelier with the Court of Master and has worked at high-profile restaurants for 20 years. To get to where she is, she told the group, “I’m good at falling down, but I’m extraordinary at getting back up.”

According to Marilyn Krieger, spokeswoman for Winebow Group, next year’s Symposium is in the works.