Just as women are underrepresented in many science and technology areas, they often are not among researchers who get top funding dollars or administrative positions in the grape and wine industry. A new organization has been established to address this.
The Women’s Viticulture & Enology Network is aimed at connecting women interested in the fields of viticulture (grape growing) and enology (wine making). The purpose is to forge new relationships, strengthen existing ones and help propel the science of grapes and wine.
WVEN is comprised of scientific professionals and aspiring students. “We endeavor to forge new relationships, strengthen existing ones and help propel the science of grapes and wine,” said Tammy Jones, co-founder of WVEN and program coordinator at the Grape & Wine Institute (GWI) at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.
A Way to Communicate and Network
“I became involved in spearheading WVEN when looking for additional ways and avenues to connect our program and our students with research and researchers across the country,” Jones said. “As in many areas of science and in agriculture, the gender gap has narrowed but still exists. Not only can national or large conferences can be intimidating to a grad student, we found there were well-established researchers who didn’t know each other as well as they should. WVEN is a way for women involved in research to link with each other and form connections. We hope it will serve as a conduit to help students, as well as established professionals, to form collaborative and supportive relationships.”
Other members of the establishing team include Patricia Skinkis, a viticulture extension professor from Oregon State University; Hildegarde Heymann, an enologist and distinguished professor from the University of California, Davis; and Jodi Creasup-Gee, a viticulture program director at Kent State University.
The program is just getting started, but already it has involved 40 university and private industry women from the fields of viticulture and enology.
The project’s next steps will be to organize meetings at regional conferences, provide additional networking opportunities and pursue grants.
The MU Grape & Wine Institute, housed in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, conducts research on best winemaking and grape growing practices and how they impact the growth of the wine industry in Missouri and the Midwest.
The institute builds on Missouri’s extensive wine making past. A hundred years ago, Missouri was the second-largest wine producing state after New York. Researchers at the University of Missouri played a key role in saving the French wine industry in the mid-1800s when grapevines in Europe were dying from a parasitic grape pest phylloxera. European grape varieties were saved through being grafted onto American grapevine rootstocks.