First celebrated in 1911 and officially recognised by the United Nations in 1975, International Women’s Day in 2022 carries the theme “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” A thoughtful call to action that resonates with our Global Ambassador Laura Rhys MS and Assistant Winemaker Mary Bridges. Here, they talk about their experiences of working in wine and working together at Gusbourne.

Mary  I started at Gusbourne as a cellar hand in 2020. In the past couple of years I’ve moved up to become Assistant Winemaker and Lab Manager. Similar story for my colleague Sarah, who started with us a year ago and she’s already moved up to be Cellar Supervisor. Gone are the days where you have to ‘put in your time’. If you’re driven and you’re passionate and you go for it, it just shows that you can achieve your ambitions – and sometimes quite quickly. Speak up, say you’re keen and your colleagues will take you seriously. It’s a very meritocratic and positive environment for me and Sarah and for the men in our team, who are all great at their jobs – we all support each other.

Laura  I’ve always felt the same as you do now working in the cellars. Much like when I was working in restaurants in the early part of my career. On the whole there were probably fewer women in the industry, certainly working as sommeliers, but I never felt that to be a barrier. I lobbed boxes around, sorted out cellars, did stock takes – just like all the men and women on my team. At one time, when I was working at Hotel du Vin, we had a fully female team of sommeliers.

Mary  And it seems to me, just on observation, that there are a lot of women working in wine in England.

Laura  You’re right – there are lots who immediately come to mind. Founders, Head Winemakers, Managing Directors – lots of very inspiring leaders and role models.

Mary  That really is inspiring for what’s actually quite a young industry, full of young people, in this country. If you look at the ages of people who are now studying wine production, so many of them are 18 or 19. Think about years ago, no 18-year-old left school in the UK and thought, ‘I’m going to be a winemaker!’ We just don’t have it in our history. Not like in, say, Germany, where there might be a small 300-year-old family winery and all the children, male and female, would be taking on some role in the business. But now? I think because the industry here is young, it’s quite innovative, and it’s attracting lots of keen young people who want to be part of what’s happening here. It’s exciting.

Laura  I think for that generation of people just leaving school, they just don’t see the barriers that previous generations did. Change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, but things definitely are changing and shifting. And things like International Women’s Day can only have a positive effect on gender equality in any industry.

Mary  The team we have right now is brilliant. Everyone brings something, everyone’s excited about something, everyone’s really motivated. You always feel supported, never like you’re just out there on your own being ambitious. We’re all in the same boat and always striving to do really good things.

Laura  I totally agree. What’s amazing about Gusbourne is the passion, the dedication, the continuous striving to always want to make the very best wine we possibly can. The people, the wine…that’s what’s so exciting about this place – and about the whole wine industry. And seeing how it’s developing here in the UK – that’s really exciting.


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