The wine industry’s first ever virtual job fair promoting diversity and inclusion will be held on December 2nd and 3rd of this year. The Be the Change Job Fair is hosted by newly minted organization Be the Change, which was founded by female leaders in the wine space Lia Jones (Founder and Executive Director, Diversity in Wine and Spirits), Rania Zayyat (Founder and President, Wonder Women of Wine), Cara Bertone (National Account Sales Manager, Folio Fine Wine Partners), and Philana Bouvier (VP for Fine Wine, Republic National Distributing Company). The organization has partnered with Diversity in Wine and Spirits and Wonder Women of Wine to address inequities in hiring practices and compensation in the wine industry while providing tangible solutions to diversify the wine industry. Be the Change’s efforts toward inclusion include elevating the professional growth of people of various identities, including gender, racial, sexual orientation, national origin, and people with disabilities.
The event will begin with a roundtable discussion moderated by Philana Bouvier, who is also the Chair of the WSWA (Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America) Women’s Leadership Council. She will be speaking with her Be The Change co-founder Lia Jones; Stephanie Gallo, CMO of E & J Gallo; Bobby Stuckey, MS, partner at Frasca Food and Wine; Susana Balbo, founder and winemaker at Susana Balbo Wines; and Dr. Hoby Wedler, Sensory Innovation Director at Sensepoint Design.
The four-hour virtual recruitment event will host carefully vetted employers who are committed to DEI with space for up to 1,000 jobseekers and multiple job opportunities across the wine industry. Applicants will be able to upload their resume, chat with employers and network with other industry professionals, while exhibitors will receive candidate resumes and be able to post job openings. One hundred percent of exhibitor proceeds will support the nonprofits Diversity In Wine & Spirits and Wonder Women of Wine. Registration is currently open for exhibitors and job applicants. Confirmed leading wine suppliers who are hiring include Jackson Family Wines, Gallo, Constellation, Moet Hennessy USA, and Avaline.
Two partner companies that will help power the job fair are Brazen, which offers recruiters a variety of virtual recruiting tools like virtual hiring events, virtual career fairs, text, audio, and video chat, and live video broadcasts and Force Brands, the leading specialized recruiting firm for the consumer products industry, which has a specialized beverage hiring division called BevForce.
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We had the opportunity to talk to Be the Change co-founder Philana Bouvier about how the organization and job fair originated and why it is needed in the wine industry.
World Wine Guys: How did the idea for Be The Change come about?
Philana Bouvier: Our story is one of women empowerment and friendship. It happened by chance, in the most beautiful and kindest way. Lia Jones, Rania Zayyat, Cara Bertone and I crossed paths, and met at different times in our professional lives. Each of us has been on this lifelong path to change our industry for the better because we are all driven to build a better future for the wine and spirits business industry across all sectors.
What was supposed to be an official introduction to one another during an in-person panel discussion at the annual Wonder Women of Wine conference in Austin, Texas, became a ‘virtual’ one when the world shifted, and business and daily life routines moved to online platforms. We became acquainted through a series of evening phone chats and naturally we came together through friendship, empowerment, and the desire to change the world.
Each of us has a profound story to share that inspired Be the Change. After spending months witnessing the many impactful cultural movements around the world, we decided to act and create Be the Change, which our initiative kicks off the first wine industry job fair with a core focus on diversity and inclusion. The mission of the job fair is to “Create a diverse wine industry through facilitating job placement with companies committed to creating real change through diversity and equity training, measurable results, and long-term policy.”
Be the Change is an initiative, in which our long-term goal is to introduce legislation when it comes to education for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in hiring practices. We aim to introduce legislation to empower inclusive hiring practices in 2021, and we understand that this process is just beginning, it’s going to be an incredible journey.What’s most inspiring is if anyone knows the strength and determination of the fourof us, and the amazing and diverse communities we represent and work with, this legislation will happen. We need everyone to participate and collaborate to ensure that we make positive change happen for our industry. I have never been more confident of what this initiative will accomplish for generations to come.
Be the Change champions diversity efforts that elevate the professional growth of all identities, including, but not limited to gender, race, sexual orientation, national and ethnic origin, religion, age, politics, and people with disabilities. This initiative is committed to changing the status quo through action and policy.
WWG: What has the response been from potential employers regarding this event?
PB: Extremely positive. Jackson Family Wines and Gallo were the first to come onboard, and we are grateful for their support. We have also secured support from Constellation, Moet Hennessy USA, and Avaline. We have had inquiries from various sectors of the wine industry, from small wineries, publications, and educational organizations, and this job fair welcomes all types of employers in the industry. And even for employers without current openings, this job fair provides an opportunity for employers to inform diverse candidates about positions that exist as possibilities for their futures. It’s important to have leading wine suppliers participate because change has to come from the top as well as having a diverse mix of companies that understand DEI is essential to building positive company culture. We are looking forward to announcing many more of our partners in the days to come.
WWG: Why do you think a diversity job fair is necessary in the wine industry?
PB: Recent events in the industry have made it clear that we have a diversity and inclusion problem in the wine industry, particularly when it comes to race and gender, but also in terms of sexual orientation, national and ethnic origin, religion, age, veterans and people with disabilities just to name a few! COVID-19 and the waves of layoffs have only made matters worse when it comes to diversity. We have heard from many wine industry employers that they are interested in increasing the diversity of their staffs, but don’t always know where to turn to market positions to diverse applicants. And job seekers from diverse backgrounds want to know where to apply to positions in companies that value diversity and who provide an inclusive and welcoming environment.
Be the Change seeks to bridge these needs and to facilitate connections between employers and job seekers. We are doing this by advertising and opening the job fair to all, to people from all backgrounds and to include employers who value diversity and inclusion. This is truly an equal opportunity event, and we know that many employers are a work in progress; we value their desire to change. And by doing the right thing they can simultaneously improve their financial performance—reports from McKinsey & Company have shown that diverse companies outperform their industry peers in terms of revenue.
Our partner organization, Diversity in Wine and Spirits is also helping by collecting analytics to help employers measure their progress and can offer ongoing solutions through benchmark reports and consulting. We hope this event helps facilitate and expedite change in our industry.
WWG: If this virtual event is successful, are there any plans for in-person job fairs in the future?
PB: Of course! We are looking forward to seeing how this evolves and it’s also important to note that we are also introducing Brazen’s sophisticated platform to our industry. The merging of tech and wine and the ability to meet candidates one to one in real time is extremely efficient.
WWG: What are some of the initiatives that you have been part of as Chair of the WSWA Women’s Leadership Council?
PB: First, I would like to say it has been an honor to be one of the founding members of WLC, which began in 2016. We started this council from the ground up, creating a mission statement and objectives we want to achieve. Our mission is to educate, elevate, and empower WSWA members, as well as industry leaders within the three-tier system, advancing women in the U.S. beverage alcohol industry and providing a platform for the exchange of ideas and knowledge with peers.
Through the pillars of educate, elevate and empower, we have built a close-knit advisory board of women in wholesale from across the country who I consider dear friends. We have created networking opportunities to connect women, as well as creating an avenue to network with male allies. We developed an annual conference for leadership skill development, a pilot mentorship program, virtual programing series to tackle tough topics such as Brave Leadership and Courageous Conversations, and a chance to give back through philanthropic activities. And we have only just begun.
This initiative started by one woman asking the question about how to meet her wholesale peers in a male dominated space. WSWA answered the question and continues to elevate and empower women in the business and bring them together. WSWA has truly opened up doors for me and created relationships for me that I did not have five years ago in this business.