Melanie Wiltz, 2.22.19
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I have been working in the wine business for 12 years. I started as a buyer for a private dining and catering company after working in the back and front of house for nearly a decade before that so food, wine and service were always loves of mine. I left to work as a sales rep for 9 years and have been working most recently as a National Sales Consultant for Massanois Imports
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
It was in a class taught by Karen McNeil that I took while enrolled in a wine immersion program at the CIA Greystone. I was so inspired by her dedication, intelligence and talent as a woman in this business. She gave me the assurance I needed to go for it.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
It is really incredible to be able to bring wines to market. I love being part of the process that helps winemakers share their passion and skill with buyers and, ultimately, end consumers. It is really fun to watch brands take off!
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
I have been offered less compensation than men for the same role. I once had a customer request a male rep after making placements with me. As a salesperson, I think it is important to give people the benefit of the doubt but some have definitely crossed the line and spoken to me in ways they would not with men.
How can we as women become aware of our prejudice and change our behavior?
As women, we need to mentor and learn from one another. We need to speak up appropriately when we are not being treated fairly. I think it’s crucial to involve men in the conversation, as well. Gender discrimination is a societal issue and it takes all of us working together to solve it. I would love to see more workplace education and proper policies in place to invoke change.
What communal benefits do you think we’ll see by bringing more women into leadership positions?
Generally, women are emotionally intelligent, organized, empathetic, and good at multitasking. Many of us have had to work hard to prove ourselves equal to men in the workplace, which shows our ability and willingness to put ego aside to get the job done. These leadership qualities can build healthy teams and happier work environments, yielding higher productivity and profits. Everyone wins.
What change do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
I hope to see more women in leadership roles. This is why it’s important for us to support, mentor and provide opportunities to other women. It affects change for all of us.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Know your worth and do not let yourself be treated unfairly. Be open to learning from others and a good team player. Work hard and establish a good work-life balance.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
All people working together without discrimination or exclusion.
What ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
I try to be a good representative of my wineries and employer and work with integrity.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
To me, a wonder woman of wine has a love for wine and shares her knowledge with others. She is kind, powerful and inspiring.
What other women of wine do you admire?
I am so fortunate to work with amazing women on all sides of the industry. I’m in sales so I won’t name the sommeliers and buyers that I admire, but the list is long. Beth Douglas Matthews and Mandi Nelson are two women, who at the beginning of my career as a buyer, inspired me with their drive and expertise. I have to mention Rae Wilson. She is such a gift to the wine community locally and beyond. Rae embodies integrity, dedication, intelligence, talent and leadership. I couldn’t be more impressed by the many women I know that are making huge contributions to our industry, while raising families.