Gina DellaVedova, 7.19.19
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 22 years in the Texas wine industry. I’ve been blessed to work in all tiers and have worked for some of the truly great wine minds and families. I decided in the early 2000s that I loved the imports business and have been with importers since then. I started with Winebow in 2012 and (aside from a brief break) have been with them since. I worked the entire Western US at one point but after making the decision to “unpack my suitcase” for a while am currently responsible for the South Region’s business.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
I had already been in restaurants throughout college and fell in love with wine then. When I graduated with a finance degree I went to work in a commercial real estate firm as the only female broker. I watched the men in the firm, who made sooo much money, practically read a wine list upside down. It was then that I realized the wine business was relevant beyond the immediate dining experience. It allowed me to be in a room with people far above my pay grade and to have experiences I may have not gained otherwise. I’m grateful for every experience, good and bad, I’ve had in this industry.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I love the global connectivity of our business. The fact that I have many true friends, that instead of living down the street, live thousands of miles away. I feel this deep satisfaction that I’m connected to a business that’s is global, yet so personal. It’s beautiful!
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
The biggest prejudices I’ve encountered has been in the form of pay equality. In two separate positions either the HR director (1st time around) or my direct boss (2nd time, completely different company) had to catch me up with my male counterparts. Luckily, I’ve also had the pleasure of working for some truly upstanding humans who saw the problem and wouldn’t let it stand. As soon as they were able they corrected the misdeed, and in one of scenario even pushed me to the “front of the line” …not because of gender but because I worked my ass off.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve become very protective about my own self-worth and what I’ll take to work somewhere. I learned the hard way that corporations will absolutely undervalue you if you let them.
How can we as women become aware of our prejudice and change our behavior?
We must recognize the deep responsibility each has to equality for future generations. Being complacent or succumbing to an environment that allows discrimination just because it doesn’t affect us doesn’t mean it won’t eventually. We must be vigilant and if you see another female struggling reach out, call HR, speak to someone…do something. Bad behavior doesn’t survive in an environment where it’s not allowed to thrive.
Also learning how to be calm, clear and consistent about who you are and what you need. Most of the time people are much less judgmental or intimidated when they understand what you can do for them.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
As we begin to adopt higher standards it elevates every part of our community and beyond. I hope we see Austin and Texas become a model of equality in the future and it’s going to take hard work from all of us to continue to drive the evolution of our industry standards.
What change do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
I would like to see our industry catch up with world. We are so far behind in the idea of true equality. It’s not just about the quota of women in leadership being filled, it’s about being able to have a full career and family life too. It’s about equal pay. And it’s about the extinction of the “boy’s club” in the professional arena.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
I am reminded of a powerful young woman that worked with me in the past. One of her male supervisors told her that if she wore high heels she’d go further in the business. She was so young and impressionable at the time she really did take this to heart! If you want to wear high heels, rock it (!) but a woman should never be told her value is in her clothes or looks. We must get beyond that if we’re ever going to progress.
Secondly be honest and let people know your expectations. When people can depend on you to be your true self, even when they may not like your message, they respect your position. I have many conversations that are difficult, but most people I deal with know when I speak to them I am being my true, open and honest self. Even though I might hate having the conversation I’m typically at peace with it because I can stand behind my words.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Not having to choose between your family and a career, pay equality, women in leadership roles. Sounds easy when I type it, but we have a long way to go.
What ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
Having had over 20 years in the industry I’ve experienced many of the situations younger women are now facing. I think it is my absolute duty to be a “coach” and assist women with navigating the obstacles of the industry and their career choices. Women need to talk through things sometimes and I take my confidential conversations with individuals very seriously. I want them to find their “fierce” side and go get what they want, but also understand the path to their goal can be tough. Just wanting it isn’t always enough, put a plan in place and work harder than everyone else.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
Individuality. Not being afraid to find your voice when many times the pull from an employer or individual is to make you fit into a box.
Kindness. We need to lift people up, be kind but firm and find ways to spread our message of equality in a way that doesn’t propagate the negativity of the past.
Collaboration. We must not just work with our own gender but learn to educate and involve the opposite sex. We must push and dig deeper to change their mentality and that’s going to take all of us working together.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
When I was growing up in the business I didn’t have many mentors because there simply weren’t many women in the business.
In more recent years, I have been so blessed to have worked with many beautiful females where we have lifted each other up. I’ve seen the “mean girls” mentality in environments but I’ve been SO BLESSED to have worked around women whom we’ve all supported, praised and exalted one another. We gave each other the power to progress. To those women: Maria, Alli, Christina, Beatrice, Mandi, Cheryl, Beth, Lisa, Sam, Cara, Amanda, Kate, Kerry, Diane, Nicole, I’m so glad to have had you in my tribe. Thank you.