Emily Pearce, Founder & President of Femmes du Vin’s words on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the foodservice industry, especially on women in foodservice, are striking, though not exactly shocking: “The obstacles that COVID-19 has presented the foodservice industry seem insurmountable at times, regardless of how much we attempt to pivot and adapt. Women especially have been bearing the brunt of these challenges and in the short term I see this continuing.”
It’s because of these challenging circumstances, brought on by the pandemic, that organizations like Femmes du Vin, and their Harvest Symposium, are so important at this time. “The importance of community, education, and mentorship has never been more critical,” explains Pearce. “Building networks of professionals to bring awareness, progress, and advancement not only to the individuals in our industry, but also the issues that face hospitality is why Femmes du Vin is working hard to move everyone forward through our organization.”
Founded in 2016 by Sommelier Emily Pearce, Femmes du Vin is a Canadian not-for-profit organization that provides opportunities for women from all walks of life, ethnicities and orientations in wine and hospitality. The organization provides education, scholarships and mentoring, with a strong emphasis on driving equal access and equality across the industry. An integral part of Femmes du Vin is their annual conference – the Femmes du Vin Harvest Series.
This September, Femmes du Vin, will bring back with the Harvest Series, and in accordance with COVID guidelines, the conference will take place completely virtually. Every Monday from September 28 – November 2, attendees can enjoy two seminars, one at 12 p.m. EST and the second at 2 p.m. EST.
Topics this year will include Diversity and Inclusion: Setting the Table for All Women in Wine, Natural Wines: Revival of Traditional Techniques in a Modern World and Vegan Wines: Embracing Green Wines and Plant-Based Philosophy. There will also be a skills-based blind tasting, where attendees will witness a unique tasting of three top wine organizations and disciplines, through the lens of Burgundian wines.
“This year is very exciting in that the content is community-driven,” Pearce explains. “We have reached out to the professionals in our community to find out what is important to them, why, and what they want to learn more about.” Pearce furthers: “Seminars will cover deep, thought-provoking and educational discussions with some of the best in the industry, including Jancis Robinson MW, Julia Coney, Pascaline Lepeltier MS, June Rodil MS, Elsa Macdonald MW, Elyse Lambert MS, Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly and so many more. This group of speakers has never come together under the same program and by using a pay-what-you-can approach for attendance, we’re able to ensure it is both inclusive and enlightening.”
From the original event in 2016 which took place in Pearce’s backyard, Femmes du Vin and the Harvest Series has grown drastically, and while this year’s event may look a little different, the mission is still the same – working towards elevating equality for all women in wine.
As we think back to Pearce’s words on how COVID has affected foodservice and hospitality, and specifically women in this industry, she points out the disparity between men and women that has existed for many years in wine, and in the industry overall.
“As the gender pay gap continues to significantly exist in most industries females in the majority of families earn less than their male counterparts,” Pearce elaborates. “Women are currently facing having to walk away from their careers to care for small children who would have been in daycare, home school those who are too vulnerable to return to school, and generally bear the responsibilities of domestically supporting the home due to stark financial realities.”
Though we’re faced with what seems like a mountain of issues to climb over, the Harvest Series shows us that “the role of women in wine has evolved tremendously, even in the last 5-10 years.” as Pearce puts it.
“A greater number of highly educated beverage professionals are entering the workforce and making a huge impact on the breadth and depth of talent in the field. That being said there are fantastic women that have led the way historically.”
She continues: “The future of women is dazzlingly bright. It is my belief that the momentum building in the community will continue to create great advancements in terms of influence, and leaders in our field. I am personally very inspired by all of the young women entering the industry who will become the leaders of tomorrow.”
For more information on what to expect at Femmes du Vin Harvest Series in 2020, visit femmesduvin.org and buy your tickets to the Harvest Series here. This year, ticket prices range from PWYC to C$75.00. The $75 FDV All Access Pass grants you access to all 10 Harvest Sessions and ticket sales go toward the FDV scholarship fund.
Femmes du Vin wants to give a special thank you to their sponsors: Wines of New Zealand, Napa Valley Vintners, Rioja Wines, Wines of South Africa, Gibson Family Group, AdVini, Jackson Family Wines as well as their media sponsors: WineAlign, and Restaurants Canada.
Emily established Femmes du Vin in 2016 and is an important voice for women in the wine industry. An MS and MW candidate, contributing writer for numerous major wine publications, respected international judge, award-winning Sommelier, and mentor to many women in the wine community.