Wswa Debuts Women's Leadership Council

Posted: Apr 21, 2017

We've spilled a lot of virtual ink in WSD over the years dissecting consumer trends and demographics, but an internal trend we have yet to touch on is the growing number of women in leadership roles in the alcohol industry. Albeit there's a long way to go before we're satisfied with the ratio of women to men in leadership, there are organizations designed to support women in the industry springing up left and right.

This year, WSWA's Women's Leadership Council is making its big debut. The group was put together last year by members to help women who work in the wholesale industry build relationships, discuss career paths and best business practices for the alcohol industry. WSWA's VP of Federal Affairs Catherine McDaniel says the trade group recognized the shifting demographics in its member companies and wanted to create a hub for the women to interact.

"Really it's about giving women in our industry a voice at the table, and feeling like they have other peers like them in similar situations so all of us can benefit from each other," says Dina Opici, the first WLC Chair and President of Opici Family Distributing. Other founding council members include: Vice-Chair Philana Bouvier of Young's Market Company; Heather Alper and Monica Chaplin at Southern Glazer's; Stacy Gabel from RNDC; Hillary Wirtz and Jenn Zenker at Breakthru Beverage Group; Jessica Cyr from Martignetti; Megan Ross Iaccino from Great Lakes Wine & Spirits; and Lacey Sadoff at Badger Liquor Company.

Already, the WLC holds regular conference calls and meetings for its members, has set up a Linkedin Group, began building alliances with organizations with similar missions, and will hold its first conference this September in Washington, D.C.

"What the industry was 50 years ago, is not what it is today," says Dina. "We continue to raise the bar and expectation of the alcohol beverage industry overall, and I think part of that includes diversity. Our customers aren't all male, our suppliers aren't all male, our consumers aren't all male, so why would we not look to emulate those people we're trying to do business with?"

Catherine tells WSD the WLC will build on some of the positive member diversity programs, and has released an educational video featuring wholesaler executives and WLC members to showcase their message.

Breakthru Beverage Group, for instance, tries to maintain a "true meritocracy," with several women occupying the most senior leadership roles, three of which are on the executive leadership team, says Jenn Zenker, the company's SVP of Government and Regulatory Affairs. "As my skillsets developed, I was given the opportunity to choose my own growth trajectory and I'll be forever grateful for the company's foresight and lack of rigidity in allowing my career to expand and develop in unanticipated ways," she says.

"At the end of the day, this is a group focused on solutions and results, and achieving those results with men and women working together. That's what this is about," says Catherine. "I am so honored to be working with this group of women. They inspire me day in and day out."

So regardless of your tier, if your company is not making an effort to create gender-diverse leadership teams, you're falling behind the curve.

Source: Wine & Spirits Daily April 20, 2017

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