A Case Study of California's Major Wineries:
Assessing the Progress and Prospects for Winemakers Who Are Women

Lucia Albino Gilbert, Ph.D.              John Carl Gilbert, Ph.D.           
       Department of Psychology    Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
    Santa Clara University                     Santa Clara University           

Synopsis of Study (click here for pdf of full study)

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Women's recent higher acclaim as winemakers in California was hypothesized to open doors for other winemakers who are women and increase their presence as lead winemakers among its established wineries. Using a case study approach, winemaker data from 1999 and 2014 were coded and then compared for the same set of 480 recognized California wineries.

The Study's Hypothesis: Two approaches were taken in providing data for testing the study's hypothesis. The first approach compared the proportion of wineries in the case study having lead women winemakers in 1999 with the proportion having lead women winemakers in 2014. The second approach, designed to illuminate factors associated with an increased presence of women winemakers, focused on position availability during this time period and the pattern of gender hiring among these positions. We viewed the second approach as providing an assessment of changes in the "lack of fit" stereotypes about women as winemakers and a best guess scenario of the rate of their progress in this field. We hypothesized that a sizeable proportion of wineries with available positions would report having appointed women as lead winemakers in 2014, but we were unsure about whether that proportion would approach or signal a shattering of the glass ceiling.

Data Source for the 480 Recognized Wineries: Wineries for the case study were those included in James Laube's (1999) book, Wine Spectator's California Wine. Laube's carefully researched book provided us with a comprehensive list of major wineries in California, together with their winemakers and owners, in 1999. Most of these established wineries were located in Napa Valley and Sonoma/Marin. Studying this same set of wineries in 2014, fifteen years later, provided a case study of the progress of women winemakers among these recognized wineries.

We used the information provided in Laube (1999) to develop a database that included all 543 wineries. We then verified whether each of the wineries still existed in 2014. Information available from Wines & Vines (http://www.winesandvines.com/), winery websites and calls to wineries, web searches, and visits to wineries were used in making these determinations. The 480 wineries that we could confirm still existed constituted the set of wineries for the case study.

First of Two Approaches Used to Assess Women's Progress
The first approach was based on all 480 wineries in the case study and compared the proportion of wineries having lead women winemakers in 1999 and 2014. As hypothesized, the overall percentage of wineries in the case study with women as lead winemakers was somewhat higher in 2014: 14.7 percent vs. 10.0 percent in 1999. This difference, although modest, was statistically significant at the 0.05 level.

Second Approach Used to Assess Women's Progress
In order for women winemakers to move into the lead winemaker positions for the wineries included in the case study, such positions needed to be available. Thus, the second approach took into account position availability and provided a "best-guess" scenario for the expected progress of women winemakers in the next decade.

Two categories of wineries limited the number of available winemaker openings among the 480 established wineries in the study: Wineries whose winery owner was also the lead winemaker in 1999 and 2014, and wineries that retained the same winemaker over the 15-year period (see pie chart graphic below). In both categories, most winemakers were male.

The best-guess scenario used data from only those wineries with available positions. The percentage of these wineries that hired a woman as the lead winemaker was higher than the percentage calculated using the first approach, but still was only 20.5 percent.


We next investigated the pattern of "gender" hiring in available positions. As can be seen from the graphic below, the most frequent pattern was a change from one male winemaker to another male winemaker: 69 percent. The second most frequent pattern was a change from male winemaker to female winemaker: 21.6 percent (note that this percentage includes the few instances of female to female winemaker hiring). Least frequent was a change from female to male winemaker: 9.3 percent.


Significance of Study's Findings
First, the study provides clear empirical evidence that women winemakers are making progress among the established California wineries reviewed by Laube (1999). Consistent with the underlying theory that women winemakers' recent acclaim would open doors for other well-qualified women, both the Napa and Sonoma/Marin regions in the case study showed considerable increases in the number of lead women winemakers from 1999 to 2014. Women winemakers in these regions have received particular recognition and visibility. For example, 10 of the 12 women in the list of "Top 100 Most Influential U.S. Winemakers" (Cervin, 2014) are located in Napa or Sonoma, as are all three women inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame.

A second significant contribution is using the availability of lead winemaking positions to provide a best guess scenario for the near-term progress of women winemakers in California. This approach indicated that if one considered solely those wineries that had an open lead winemaker position in the period from 1999 to 2014, only 20.5 percent hired a lead winemaker who was female.

Third, the study examined the pattern of lead winemaker appointments among those wineries with available positions. The pattern that emerged made evident that the opening-of-doors for women competes with the long-standing traditional practice of hiring men, with male lead winemakers hired much more often when positions did become available. In addition, winemaker longevity at a particular winery decreases the number of possible open positions, and still today many more men than women hold these positions.

In Spite of Progress, Number of Lead Women Winemakers Remains Small
In this case study, as in two of our earlier studies on California women winemakers (Gilbert, 2011, Gilbert & Gilbert, 2012), the number of lead women winemakers (including owner/winemakers) remains relatively small. As the empirical data from the current study make clear, progress appears steady, but not dramatic, at least among the major wineries in California that were included in Laube (1999). The glass ceiling is far from being smashed.


Note: Portions of this paper were presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Psychological Science, New York City, NY, May 2015.


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Posted April 2015