International Women's Day: Women in wine

Women are playing an increasingly important role in New Zealand's thriving viticulture industry.

On International Women's Day, we talk to Vineyard Operations Manager for Pernod Ricard, Lesley Boon, about women in the wine industry, and addressing the gender imbalance.

Why do you think there is a gender imbalance in the NZ wine industry?

Historically, it's been seen as manual work so therefore something that is more appropriate for men.

An interesting fact is most of our original vineyards were planted by women because they were available for casual work, so it's not that there have never been women involved. It has definitely been changing and in recent years, we have seen more and more women across all roles in the wine industry.

Is it an issue that is important for Pernod Ricard?

It's well recognised that a balanced and diverse team will bring more discussion to the table and it's exciting to see Pernod Ricard globally focussing on creating 'better balance' and supporting diverse teams.

In Marlborough, we've been seeing more and more women coming into the business across all areas of winemaking and it's exciting to know that Pernod Ricard is committed to seeing these talented women not just enter the industry but stay and develop.

Lesley Boon started as a casual vineyard worker and is now vineyard operations manager at Pernod Ricard.
Lesley Boon started as a casual vineyard worker and is now vineyard operations manager at Pernod Ricard. Photo credit: Supplied

How are women represented?

Women are well-represented across the whole business in our winemaking operations and while it's not quite half/half, it is getting close and there are definitely more young women coming into the company so I think in a few years, we will be seeing a very balanced workforce.

And in your leadership team?

Forty percent of our leadership team in winemaking operations are female and that's a fantastic number for what is a pretty traditionally male-dominated industry. A lot of these women have families, which is really positive to see that the company is embracing and celebrating work life balance and rewarding talented people.

What do you do as a company to support women in the industry?

For me working at Pernod Ricard, I have never felt that I have been held back because I'm a woman.

It's always been about skill set and attitude. I started with the company 18 years ago, straight out of University as a casual worker on Brancott Vineyard. Since then I've been offered numerous opportunities for professional and leadership development. These have been opportunities that my managers have encouraged and promoted, it's never been something I've had to push for. Both times that I was pregnant, I was offered promotions even though I was about to go on maternity leave. I can think of multiple examples of this where having kids hasn't stopped people on their career path and progressing.

There's definitely a culture of work-life balance that gives flexibility in balance and working style. It's applied to everyone. We've also adopted technology that makes it easier to work flexibly and we really encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to get better balance in their lives.

Is this something that needs to be addressed industry wide?

The industry is definitely changing, and we are seeing more and more women coming through. You notice it driving around Marlborough when you see more women driving tractors and harvesters. I can't speak for other companies, but I can say that having seen the benefits of embracing a more balanced workforce.

It's definitely something people should consider if they aren't doing it already.