Napa Valley

Women and Wine

Women of the Vine

This past weekend, I was fortunate to attend the inaugural Women of the Vine Global Symposium in Napa, California. I learned about viticulture and sampled world class wine at the Master Wine Tasting. All of that was great fun, but what struck me was the intersection of several different worlds and the burning desire of women to get ahead in whatever industry they are in.

I remember the days of feminism when I was in college; I marched for the Equal Rights Amendment in Washington and we fought for the right to control our own bodies.

We have come so far in many ways and not far enough in other ways. The fight for equality has made progress. Many women now appreciate the fairness of equal pay for equal work. However, the economic battle still continues.

Women, even if they are more educated than their male counterparts, and work just as hard, are not entirely fairly compensated. They are not granted top executive positions, seats on corporate boards, or venture funding at the same rate as their male colleagues.

Excuses abound. One follows that women drop out of the labor force to have children. In fact, this is false.

One major Wall Street firm did a major study to determine why women were leaving the company in droves. The assumption was that women left to focus on their children, but they actually left to work at competing firms with more supportive bosses.

Another excuse is that women haven’t been in the pipeline long enough to make it to the top levels. Wrong again. I joined Goldman Sachs in 1980, and along with a handful of other women was mentioned in a cover story of Institutional Investor. Goldman said we were the women to watch. That was thirty years ago. The pipeline is full of talented women.

Women are succeeding, but true equality isn’t happening on Wall Street, in corporate boardrooms, in venture capital, or in film. The magic occurs when women come together to meet and share stories both inside their industries and across disciplines. Power is created when a network mobilizes to come together to advance careers. I saw that at the first Women of the Vine.


The view from the top

Women of the Vine was started by Deborah Brenner. Brenner had a successful career in technology before she resigned to do something more meaningful and exciting. After venturing into the wine business, she was dismayed to see how few women held executive positions.

In character fashion, Brenner decided to launch an event to bring together women in the wine industry. She hoped for 100 attendees. The event sold out with 400 people, 100 people on the waiting list, and an impressive list of corporate sponsors.

Ladies Networking

What does this say about women in business? It points to the power of helping one another for career advancement and success. It doesn’t matter if it is wine, film, or technology, women who connect and build critical mass have power. Just like the wine sampled this weekend, the power of women focused on success is intoxicating.


A woman-owned vineyard


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