Evidence of Women Winemakers' Success in a Male-Dominated Field

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)

Our first study used a comprehensive database of California winemakers we developed to respond to the question, "How Many Women?" We found that only 9.8% of California wineries have women as the main or lead winemaker. This figure was significantly lower than the 15-20% that had been assumed.

The current study investigated winery acclaim as a possible explanation for the discrepancy between the perceived percentage of women winemakers and the actual figure. Women winemakers are likely a more highly selected group than their male peers in what remains a male-dominated industry. Although nearly half of the graduates of premier enology programs in California have been women, a much smaller percentage of them become winemakers. Women who persist in male-dominated fields are reported to have high achievement motivation, ability, and self-efficacy, and often need to be more talented and hard working than their male peers in order to be recognized as successful.

The study's hypothesis: Although California wineries with women winemakers are far fewer in number compared to their male counterparts, the wines produced from wineries having women winemakers are more highly acclaimed proportional to their presence in the field than are those having male winemakers.

Evidence of winery quality: We used data from Opus Vino, a major work authored by wine critics and writers, as evidence of winery quality. The wineries selected for Opus Vino were identified by leading wine critics and wine writers, who worked as a team with the volume's editor-in-chief, Jim Gordon, former managing editor of the Wine Spectator and current editor of Wines & Vines Magazine. Selections for Opus Vino were based on an accumulation of experiences with wineries in a particular wine region and tasting notes of wines from that region over a period of years.

Are wineries with women winemakers more highly acclaimed? According to our data, yes, they are more highly acclaimed. To address this question, we coded whether wineries in the California comprehensive database were listed in Opus Vino and the sex of the winemaker cited in the entry for the winery in Opus Vino. We then calculated the proportion of wineries in Opus Vino having women and men winemakers, proportional to their representation in the comprehensive database of 3200+ winemakers. Relative to those for men, a significantly higher percentage of wineries having women winemakers were listed in Opus Vino: specifically, 23% of the California wineries with women winemakers were listed in Opus Vino as compared to 14.1% of wineries with male winemakers.


Does Wine Region matter? The proportion of wineries with women winemakers identified in Opus Vino as top or rising star wineries varied considerably by wine region. As can be seen from the bar graph, although Mendocino/Lake Counties comprises a relatively small wine region, both in the larger California winery comprehensive database (5% of all CA wineries) and among those included in Opus Vino (6.8%), 38.5% of its lead women winemakers were included in Opus Vino, as compared to 20.6% of the lead men winemakers. A similar pattern emerged for Napa and Sonoma/Marin Counties.

Does being a Winemaker/Owner matter? Many more men than women are winery owners in California. A reversal to this pattern occurred when we considered winemaker/owners in Opus Vino proportional to the respective number of owner/winemakers in the field. We found that 14.2% of women owners/winemakers were included in Opus Vino in comparison to 9.7% of men owners/winemakers. These findings indicate that although men who are winemaker/owners are far more numerous among California wineries, a higher percentage of women owners/winemakers, proportional to their presence in the field, were among those wineries included in Opus Vino.

Conclusion: The results provide strong support for our hypothesis. Proportional to their representation in the field, the wines from California wineries having lead women winemakers are more highly acclaimed in comparison to those of their male counterparts, as evidenced by their inclusion in Opus Vino, a widely cited and credible source of winery quality. Women's reputation as serious contributors to the field of winemaking is clearly affirmed by these findings.

Our findings help illuminate two important areas. First, they give strong evidence of California women winemakers' substantial and considerable success in a male-dominated field. Having their wines more highly acclaimed provides a clear indicator that women winemakers have "made it" and are being recognized in a male-dominated industry. Second, our findings provide a credible explanation for why many people mistakenly believe that women winemakers have shattered the glass ceiling in California. Having their wines more highly acclaimed may also lead to the erroneous conclusion that women winemakers are far more numerous than they in fact are.

July 2012

Click here for a Downloadable PDF of the full study, "Evidence of Women Winemakers' Success in a Male-Dominated Field."

Click here for a Downloadable PDF of the "How Many Women" article.