“What can men do to support women in the wine trade? And why should they bother?” Sounds like one of those books you can pick up for a fiver next to the check-out at Waterstones. But it would well worth the read if you did. It’s an issue that has long bubbled away under the surface of the wider drinks industry as well as the wine trade itself. It’s also a topic that Joe Fattorini will help address at a debate at next week’s London Wine Fair on gender diversity within the sector.
2018 will be remembered as the year when issues related to gender diversity, the role and respect for women in society as a whole and business in particular. It’s also an issue that will come under the microscope at next week’s London Wine Fair, as Joe Fattorini explains.
“A bear trap”. That’s how someone described being invited onto the Women in Wine London panel on Gender Diversity and Thought Leadership at The London Wine Fair. Why a “bear trap”? It seems men worry about straying into discussions on gender equality. “What if you say the wrong thing?” said one. “Is it even for you to comment?” another. “This is a ‘women’s issue'” said a third.
Gender issues affect women. But they also affect men. Some men are part of the problem. But there are more men who can be part of the solution. There’s a place for women to talk about and tackle issues together. But there’s another place for men and women to look for solutions together. So here are five things men can do. That you can do. Today.
1 Understand that promoting gender diversity and equality is in men’s interest too. Innovation emerges from a potpourri of life experiences, ideas, backgrounds and insights. In turn innovation leads to profit and growth. It’s axiomatic that we should seek equality for its own sake. But achieving equality and gender diversity doesn’t some charitable penalty. Quite the opposite. It’s a route to growth.
2 Don’t tell people you support gender diversity because you “have a wife and daughter and want them to be able to have a good career”. This may be true. And your feelings may be heartfelt. But right of women to have successful careers does not emerge from the right of men to want success for the women in their lives. You may think this is PC nitpicking. But this is one of those rhetorical ticks that ingrains injustice. A man’s right to fair treatment at work doesn’t come from his mother’s desire for it. So neither does a woman’s come from her husband.
3 If you’re a successful man, share your knowledge with women who seek success. The role of mentoring women is often left to the (relatively few) women who’ve already achieved it. But real equality is embodied by successful people sharing what they know, irrespective of the genders of the mentor and mentee.
Over the last year I’ve spent time doing some sort of mentoring with seven women. It wasn’t deliberate. They were the only people who asked. But each one said pretty much the same thing: “You’ve been successful. I’d like to know what you did to achieve it.” (As it happens, all the mentors I’ve turned to over the last five years have been women.)
4 Listen and then respond. Or put it another way “don’t tell them what you think they ought to be hearing”. Gender diversity that brings new perspectives to the way we can innovate and solve problems. But it also means women bring challenges that men don’t necessarily face. Women sometimes find it challenging demanding better or even equal pay. As a mentor you are unlikely to solve the root cause why. But listen to the challenges. Understand they’re not your challenges. And find a solution in the common ground of your two experiences.
Together, a mentee and I did this earlier in the year. She’s now paid as much as the men in her team, and her predecessor in the role. This after several years of resentment, reluctant to leave a job she loved, but aware she wasn’t treated as fairly as she should be.
5 Follow the rules. But also challenge the culture. Sometimes people break rules. And eventually they’re usually punished. But many women say they find culture more problematic. Ours is a fun trade. We sell good times and we enjoy the good times too. It’s part of the culture of our business and one we should fiercely protect.
But should we protect the same culture when it lets women be sexually-harassed at events? Or instils a “compulsory drinks” rule over women who might be trying to conceive? Or encourages men in power to casually bully women out of roles to make way for others at the behest of even more powerful men?
All things my mentees – my friends – have endured. Cultures change from within. Be part of a better culture and lead change.
Some men I’ve spoken to say it’s easier to remain silent than run the risk of saying the wrong thing. Better to say nothing, than run the risk of opening your mouth and confirming you’re a mysoginist. I disagree. Women (and men) may take issue with some of the advice here. But I’d rather be an active part of a solution than a passive part of a problem.
- Joe Fattorini joins the WomenInWineLDN panel on Gender Diversity and Thought Leadership at The London Wine Fair at 10.30am on Tuesday 22nd May. The panel also includes Alex Ririe
Managing partner, strategic development at Coley Porter Bell / Ogilvy, UK member of the WSET Alumni Advisory BoardAnne JonesWaitrose category manager for wines, beers and spiritsPanel Chair: Regine Lee, co-founder of Women in Wine LDN, and head of customer business support at Liberty Wines.