Wednesday, 27 December 2023 15:25

Connect. Inform. Change

Written by  Nicky Grandorge
Nicky Grandorge Nicky Grandorge

Where better to hold a Women in Wine national networking event than Kate Sheppard House?

On 2 November 2023, members from around the country congregated at this historic villa in Christchurch to focus on women working in our industry.

There was a very special atmosphere that morning. The pristine, white villa sits in a beautiful garden hedged with bright pink rhododendrons, and pale purple wisteria winds its way around the veranda. It was incredibly peaceful and hard to believe the hustle and bustle of the city was just a stone’s throw away. It enabled attendees to pause, take a breath and think. Think about themselves and think about each other, as well as think about the role and status of women in the past, present and future. It was both powerful and empowering.

It was also humbling to walk in the footsteps of Kate Sheppard and her team of driven women – and men – who worked tirelessly to make New Zealand a fairer, more balanced and progressive country. To see the very table where they had pasted together pages and pages of signatures for the 270-metre-long petition rolled out in Parliament, was incredibly inspiring. Women were finally given the vote on 19 September 1893.

So why, 130 years later, do we need a Women in Wine initiative in New Zealand? In short, because we’re still not quite there. Compared with some other countries, we are in a pretty good place. However, for women working in our industry there are still gaps to be closed. Women should have equal opportunities, equal pay and be able to progress their careers with full support, as well as enjoy a healthy work-life balance and comfortable retirement.

Kate Radburnd, Chair of Women in Wine New Zealand, talked passionately about the need to close the gender pay gap. Following a recent research report commissioned by Women in Wine, it was established that the New Zealand wine industry has a median gender pay gap of 7.8%. Although below the median national average of 9.1%, it nevertheless exists and needs to be closed. The gap is, in fact, much larger in certain roles, including chief and senior winemakers (combined) at 23%.

Closing this gap is a team effort. By regularly reviewing payrolls and making changes for fair and equal pay as appropriate, the change can happen. International Women’s Day on 8 March is a good date to set, to do this annually.

Further building women’s confidence is also a means to closing the gap. Feeling equipped and confident to negotiate pay rates from the start will ensure women achieve equal pay and secure a more equally fair and comfortable retirement fund. Attendees also enjoyed an interesting presentation about Kate Sheppard’s life as well as a tour of the house from historian Helen Osborne.

There was a panel session with Kate Radburnd, Meg Soper and Rachel Tonk, all at various stages of their careers, who discussed why they love working in the wine industry, and shared their achievements to date, who inspired them, their goals and what support they might need to reach them. The mentoring programmes were highlighted as a strong support as well as networking events, which are important for sharing ideas and building confidence.

Women in Wine national networking at Kate Sheppard House.

Women in Wine plans to commission another gender pay gap report next year to include all roles within the industry. It is hoped we can see the gap close in the future and lead the way as an industry to reach zero first. Since the launch of Women in Wine in 2017, diversity and inclusion is now certainly on more people’s radar. Organisations are checking there is balance around the table, that there are women on wine judging panels and moving into senior roles if they wish to. It’s positive to see progress, but there is still work to be done.

Male champions can also play an important part of making this change happen. Kate Sheppard had men to support the women fighting for change. Apart from her husband’s support and using their home as her base, she needed men to roll out the petition in parliament and push for the amendment to be signed.

This year ‘how to close the gender pay gap’ was a speech topic for the Young Viticulturist and Young Winemaker competitions. This is indeed progress, endorsing its importance as a hot topic, front of mind. Nick Lamain from VinLink used the opportunity to rally the men in the Marlborough audience and received a resounding applause as he concluded his rousing speech. “And men, we can be proud of our past contributions while also being excited for a more inclusive future. That’s the vintage we should all strive for – a well-balanced, matured, and equitable industry for all.”

Kate Sheppard gave us a huge platform from which to grow, so let’s continue to connect, inform and change, so our industry can be a leading example of equal opportunities, and highlight the extra strength and success which comes with that.

Nicky Grandorge is Leadership and Communities Manager at New Zealand Winegrowers. Find the Gender Pay Gap report at

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