Earlier this week over eighty women working in the UK wine trade attended Women in Wine LDN’s 2019 flagship event “Forging a Path to Leadership”, to celebrate the past, present and future of leadership in the industry.
Held at the historic Vintners’ Hall, in the heart of the city, the evening was kicked off with a welcome by Hannah Van Susteren, of the Women in Wine LDN leadership team, who introduced Christopher Davey, Master of the Worshipful Company of Vintners. Davey stressed the importance of supporting women working in the wine trade and said how much he looked forward to Ann Hill’s tenure as the first Lady Master beginning next year.
Serena Sutcliffe MW delivered a keynote address. Considered one of the world’s leading authorities on wine, Serena is the Honorary Chairman of Sotheby’s Wine, having previously been Worldwide Head of the department from 1990 to 2015. She spoke about the unique attributes women bring to their work – attention to detail, good instincts, and a focus on long-term sustainability – and commented on how important strengthening a network can be to progressing a career. She said the wine trade needs more women because “[women] have a deep sense of responsibility [for their industry],” adding with smile “and are often better tasters.” Serena ended her inspiring speech by rallying cry, “Go out, and slay them!”
The audience then heard from a panel of three leaders in the wine industry – Diana Rollan, Group Head of Beverage at D&D London; Maria Lopez, Sales Director for UK and Ireland for Accolade; and Nicky Forrest, MD of Phipps Relations. Moderated by Women in Wine LDN’s co-founder Regine Lee MW.
The path to leadership positions was discussed among the panellists. As Forrest commented, “Leadership is about nailing the basics in running your business – getting your priorities right and making good decisions.” She detailed the ways Phipps train and develop their team, noting that building skills and experience is important in creating an effective business but also makes it easier for women to work flexibly, which is so important for us today.
When reflecting on how to better support women working in wine, Lopez noted: “Ambition and progress in your career is not linear, it’s circular.” She added that, while feeling incompetent is part – if not necessary – of starting a new role, they must have the confidence in knowing that they will succeed with time.
The discussion the turned to how to foster up and coming leaders in the on-trade. Rollan suggested: “It is important to establish respect as a leader. Communication is key to build teams and make sure everyone is motivated to achieve the same goal.” The challenges of gender equality in senior roles on the on-trade remains something the industry needs to address. She said she observed how different women respond to situations differently and how hard they take failure. She said we need to build enough confidence in our ability to jump into challenging roles and disregard “the feeling that we’re not good enough”.
Other interesting themes discussed were on the balance of being directive and supportive, how to delegate autonomy and the importance of being an intuitive manager. Asked about what advice they’d give to aspiring women leaders, Forrest said “It’s important to be well-rounded. Getting yourself networked and have a wide range of interests (such as wine judging and being involved in things outside your job) to keep you relevant in the industry.”
The panel was closed by Women in Wine LDN’s Sula Richardson, who put forth how we can continue this important conversation in the future.
Many thanks to the Vintners’ Company who sponsored the event space and for their continued championing of Women in Wine LDN. Also, we greatly appreciate the support from Accolade and Gusbourne, who sponsored the wines for the evening.