Level the playing field

Eliminate the gender wage gap


Ifelt disappointed by the results of a recent survey of wineries and employee compensation. While viewing a recorded webinar hosted by the Oregon Wine Board, most appalling to me: the wage gap between men and women working in Oregon’s wine industry. This issue permeates well beyond our state (and wine) as a society. Consider these inequities and the urgency to address them at the local level.

Commissioned by the Oregon Wine Board, Dr. Jeff D. Peterson conducted the survey. Until quite recently, Peterson was a professor at Linfield University and presented the findings before retiring. While the questionnaire was broader in scope, I believe it’s vital to focus on the pay differences between genders.

With several years of data and an increasing number of winery respondents, I investigated some specific numbers and want to share my observations. By increasing awareness of the pay gap between the sexes, I hope businesses take action to remedy this issue. Regardless of identity and race, parity must exist for all people.

In 2019, female tasting room managers in Oregon earned an average annual income of $44,217– nearly the same pay (98 percent) as their male counterparts– with $45,168. Fast forward to 2022, when men are paid $54,238 and women lag behind at $49,260, a gap that widened to 91 percent. Why are equal pay conversations popular, especially on social media, when wage inequities continue to grow?

Sadly, salary disparities increase in other Oregon winery roles up the ranks. For example, take executive winemakers: men annually earn an average of $96,512. Yet women sharing the exact title receive $84,258. Same job title, same work… but women unfairly make $0.87 cents for every dollar paid to a man.

I was shocked to learn the widest compensation gap between the sexes occurs in the national sales director position. With a 66 percent difference, women are paid $78,438, while men receive $119,361! How can this be?

Last, the highest salary role surveyed by Peterson belongs to of a president or general manager. Today, a woman running an Oregon winery makes an average annual income of $95,564. Not too shabby… until compared with her male counterpart, who earns 27 percent more, $131,727. Sure, the wage gap narrowed 2 percent from the 2019 survey results, but at that rate, ask yourself how many generations will elapse until women earn the same pay as men?

To winery owners and human resources staff, how do your salaries compare with these averages? If you’re falling short, raise wages to mitigate disproportionate pay. I challenge you to reduce or eliminate these inequality gaps before the succeeding survey.

As a consumer or wine club member, ask your favorite wineries whether they compensate their staff equally and fairly for their work. I understand how awkward this feels. But wineries should be willing to discuss actions they’re taking to address polarity in pay between men and women. Support businesses working to remedy these perennial societal issues, especially those sharing the importance of wage equality in their company’s mission.

The bottom line? Organizations have no excuse placing a higher value on the contributions made by a man above those of a woman. Society has been debating this for years, yet the gap continues to exist, and, in some cases, widen.

Our industry has the opportunity to be trailblazers. Instead of more talking, let’s effect real change and give women the raise they earn.

Michele Francisco spent her childhood reading and writing, eventually graduating from UCLA with an English degree. She attended graphic design school and began a career in design and marketing. After moving to Oregon in 2010, Michele studied wine at Chemeketa Community College and began Winerabble, a Northwest-focused wine blog. She has been a cheerleader for Oregon wine since her arrival.

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