Across industries, women are rising up to tackle the inequities that they face on a daily basis, from pay gaps to sexual harassment. The wine world is no different, and in July, women will gather in Napa for a different kind of wine event: a daylong forum dedicated to tackling the challenges and opportunities that women face in the wine industry. Called Bâtonnage, the forum aims to not only provide a space for women to gather together and discuss and learn, but also to “seek to propose pragmatic solutions for charting a positive, inclusive course forward.”
After attending Cherry Bombe Jubilee—a conference for women in the food/restaurant world—Stevie Stacionis was inspired to launch a similar event focused specifically on women in wine. “Bâtonnage grew out of my own struggles as a new mom working in wine retail as well as from the stories I continued to hear from female colleagues about their challenges in our industry,” says Stacionis, a sommelier and co-owner of Oakland’s Bay Grape wine shop. “Many of these challenges were things that it seemed we had, over time, collectively sighed into or reluctantly accepted as ‘just the way things were.’”
That feeling has started to change, particularly in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the #metoo movement. “I think, after the 2016 election and a major overall increase in awareness about the ways women were still being treated poorly in our society, women that I spoke with were feeling impressively mobilized—our sighs and reluctancy had turned into a conviction that we could—and had to—stand up and insist on change,” says Stacionis.
The forum, to be held on July 28, 2018, is open to women working in all aspects of the wine industry, and the list of panelists includes women like Linda Bisson, professor emeritus UC Davis, Department of Viticulture and Enology, sommelier and wine director Tonya Pitts, SF Chronicle wine writer Esther Mobley, and winemaker Jill Matthiasson. “Since the intention behind Bâtonnage is to find ways to work to be more inclusive and collaborative as an industry, it only makes sense to include and collaborate with the whole working model,” says Stacionis, in regards to keeping the forum open to women from all corners of the industry. “We all have to work together anyway—none of us is isolated from the other. Plus, I see tons of movement within the wine industry: sommeliers end up working in distribution, sales people end up moving into production, etc.”
Attendees will spend the day in sessions focused on topics like working culture of male exclusivity and advocating and negotiating. One session will focus exclusively on women in management and leadership, something that Stacionis sees as the key to moving forward. “The number one thing I believe needs to happen is that more women (and people of color and people with less financial means) need to be give leadership positions. Once they’re there, you can almost assuredly count on them updating systems to better serve their cohort’s rights and that further enable even more women to grow into those roles.”
Above all, Stacionis hopes to create a space to ask the hard questions and create a discussion that leads to change. “I hope that we can politely address the elephant in the room—call attention to the inequalities (which, I should mention, I don’t necessarily think are intentionally created) and create awareness of issues many of us may not have even realized were real issues. The first step is realizing you have a problem!” says Stacionis. “Beyond that, I hope attendees can come away with a few real, tangible, applicable solutions for moving toward positive change.”
More information, including ticketing and a complete list of panelists, visit the official Bâtonnage Forum website.
Images courtesy of Bâtonnage.
Anna Brones is a writer based in the American Pacific Northwest, the founder of Foodie Underground, and the co-author of Fika: The Art Of The Swedish Coffee Break.