Dear Sommeliers Australia members & friends,
As Sommeliers Australia Co-President I would like to comment on the landscape that we, as sommeliers and wine professionals, are all working in; a landscape that many of us are trying to improve and help drive diversity and inclusivity in a way that is equitable for all.
I joined Sommeliers Australia in 2005 at a time when there were very few female sommeliers to be guided by, and look up to. Despite this I made a commitment to myself to be an active member and support the association.
For nearly 10 years I persevered with the association, but then gave up as I was not seeing change come quickly enough. As a spectator on the outside (at times critical) I then realised I had become like so many others – quick to judge and condemn but not prepared to step up, take action and drive change.
I re-joined Sommeliers Australia as a member in 2016 and stepped onto the Victorian State Chapter Committee. In 2017, I shared the position of Vice President with Franck Moreau. In 2018, Sommeliers Australia needed a new President, and Chris Crawford and I were the likely contenders.
Chris and I met to discuss what we wanted the association to be, what changes we wanted to facilitate and the personal commitment that would be required from each of us. We wanted Sommeliers Australia to bid for the right to host the ASI Best Sommelier of Asia Oceania (BSOAO) 2021 and knew this would be a huge undertaking. We agreed that the best way forward to drive change, bring stability to the association, and lead by example, was to step up as Co-Presidents. So, we did, making a three-year commitment to Sommeliers Australia, which has since become four to support the BSOAO which will now be held in 2022.
Last year, was a year like no other, and much of what played out on the global stage was devastating to see. However, what has followed since then has given so many industries we work within (hospitality, wine, tourism, education…the list goes on) the opportunity to re-calibrate, self-reflect, and with that strive for an equitable future – one that champions diversity and inclusivity.
So, I have stepped up again, and am now living, breathing and dreaming in this space. With my WSET hat on I joined the WSET Global External D&I Project Group. With my ASI hat on I joined the newly formed ASI Global D&I Committee to represent Australia and Aotearoa (New Zealand). From a domestic perspective I responded to Curly Haslam-Coates’ call to arms and joined The Bunch Collective, an organisation for wine industry professionals in every role, region and every person across Aotearoa and Australia that has diversity and inclusivity front-and-centre of their mission statement. And lastly, with relevance to Sommeliers Australia, I honoured the commitment made in December 2020 to set up a D&I Working Group to address issues of underrepresentation of gender and diversity within Sommeliers Australia activities, and develop a D&I framework that will enable the association to drive change.
Each of these working groups require a significant amount of my personal time, given that each group is not about communication alone but facilitating change, and the commitment to take part in international meetings late at night. As an active participant in these working groups I have been surprised at the lack of engagement of young female wine professionals in most of these arenas – the very group of professionals my working group colleagues and I are committed to support, and bring change to the industries they work in.
On International Women’s Day it was announced that the overall gender pay gap will close in 99.5 years, and 10% of young women aged 15 – 24 in the world are illiterate. As a society, we have a huge mountain still to climb and this cannot be done alone. We need a calling to arms to unite and drive change collectively.
Closer to home, Sommeliers Australia needs to hear from the up-and-coming sommeliers in Australia, of all genders. We want to hear what the issues are, the barriers you feel are the biggest, and positive suggestions on how the association can turn this around.
In the coming months, Sommeliers Australia is committed to facilitating an open invitation meeting for those individuals who want to offer their views on diversity and inclusivity to take part. This meeting will allow the Sommeliers Australia D&I Working Group to hear first-hand what the main diversity and inclusivity issues surrounding the association are, with the view to move the association forward and drive change for a more balanced, and equitable industry; an industry that proudly rewards diversity and openly actions inclusivity.
Sarah Andrew DipWSET (Honours)
Sommeliers Australia Co-President