Brian Walsh talks gender diversity in the Australian wine industry

October 22, 2018
By Alana House

Women in Drinks South Australia is celebrating the success of its latest event – “The Evolution of Gender Diversity in the Drinks Industry”.

Held at Pernod Ricard Winemakers in Rowland Flat, the event featured Brian Walsh, Chair of Wine Australia, exploring gender diversity within the wine industry and what he sees as the most effective initiatives to drive change for the future.

Walsh boasts a 24-year career at Yalumba, spanning roles of Chief Winemaker, Director of Production and Director of Strategy and Business Development, as well as 20 years working in winemaking and management positions in McLaren Vale. Walsh has previously held roles including President of the South Australian Wine Industry Association, Chair of the South Australian Wine Tourism Advisory Board, Chair of Barossa Winemakers Committee, Chair of the Wine Innovation Cluster, and is currently Independent Chair of Riverland Wine.

He discussed how gender barriers started to break down in the Australian winemaking sector in 1972, when the first woman enrolled in winemaking at Roseworthy College. However, while graduation rates versus long-term retention rates of females in winemaking and viticulture are currently a 50/50 split at graduation, this slides to a male majority after 10 years. In winemaking roles, female participation moves to single digits.

He noted that while the Australian Women in Wine Awards are a fantastic initiative, his hope is that diversity in the wine industry will reach a point where gender specific awards are no longer necessary. 

Regarding his involvement in the AWIWAs, Walsh has previously noted: “I was naively thinking that because we see approximately equal numbers of graduates entering the sector that progress in diversity and equity was being made.

“Now aware of the large attrition rate of top female talent from our grape and wine community, I realise that something needs to be done. The AWIWA is one important part of that process – providing awareness, recognition, inspiration, confidence and opportunity for women in wine, thereby making our whole wine community both fairer and stronger.”

Walsh emphasised the importance of including all levels in the wine industry, from the vineyard to the packaging plant to executives, in the diversity journey. He also noted that large and small companies need to share knowledge on diversity across the sector.

A Q&A and networking session followed Walsh’s keynote speech.

Here are some photographs from the event:

Women in Drinks is an initiative by The Drinks Association to highlight issues facing women in the workplace, champion opportunities and offer networking events for women working in the drinks industry. The Drinks Association is a not-for-profit organisation that offers everything from industry data to targeted forums and a broad spectrum of events, publications and websites, including Drinks Trade, Drinks Bulletin and Drinks Guide. It works to build a stronger, more informed Australian drinks industry by providing commonly required services.

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