In January 2021, Magdalena Pesce became the first female CEO of Wines of Argentina, and has become a powerful driving force behind a new vision for the organisation.
A mum to a six-year-old boy with a degree in international relations, Pesce started out as a marketing assistant at Oddbins in London in 2004. Roles as Head of the Department of White Brands at a textiles company in Valencia followed, when she would split her time between Spain and the company’s production centres in Hong Kong and China.
She returned to Argentina in 2009, becoming area manager for the United States, Brazil, Latin America and Canada. She was later made Wines of Argentina’s marketing and communications manager, and seven years later became its CEO.
With Pesce at the helm, the trade body is forging a new path, ensuring that its entire operation is reflective of its commitment to gender equality and diversity, while also highlighting the immense contribution women are making to the progression of Argentine wine.
The days of the macho Gaucho, long used to promote Argentine wine, are at an end and now considered an anachronistic vision of the industry. Today, Wines of Argentina is working to portray a more balanced image, highlighting the dedicated cross-section of talented women and men that work side by side to shape the industry.
With Wines of Argentina at a turning point in its approach, we spoke to Pesce about her own experiences working in the wine industry, what the trade organisation is doing to address gender inequality and how it’s helping to raise women’s voices higher.
What changes have you seen over the course of your career in terms of gender equality and opportunity in Argentine wine?
More and more women are graduating from technical careers and gaining space in new areas in companies and institutions, such as Boards or oenological teams of wineries. This is far more than the classic roles we have had in the laboratory or within marketing. Women even organise themselves in groups to provide technical support or promote company initiatives to improve growth opportunities. From businesswomen and wine ambassadors such as Laura Catena and Susana Balbo, Lucila and Sofía Pescarmona and Paz Levinson, to Patricia Ortiz (head of the Bodegas de Argentina chamber) and Master of Wine Marina Gayan, to name just a few, women are major leaders on the Argentine wine scene and this is not common in other countries or industries.
Why do we still need to raise female voices higher and recognise their success in the wine industry and beyond?
While advancements in equity and inclusion have been made, particularly over the last years, there is still much work to be done. Making visible the gender wage gap, the lack of opportunities to grow, the sticky floors and the glass ceiling helps to explain the reality of women. But understanding and giving a name to what happens to us is not a sufficient condition to achieve changes. It is necessary to have a clear policy in institutions and companies in order to give birth to a new paradigm.
The effort that we have to make to ‘get there’ is not a metaphor. For this reason, it is important that those of us who have privileges (being able to study and develop professionally, living motherhood with freedom), are responsible and supportive. From my place, I am committed to helping and empowering other women, starting with my team and colleagues.
What are the principles of WofA’s Women of Argentina Platform and what are its goals?
Beginning with a play on words, Martín Pérez Cambet, one of the winners of the WofA Innova Open Challenge and who runs Dartley Family Wines, suggested harnessing the distinctive value brought by women in the wine industry in Argentina, hence Woman of Argentina (WofA). Together with a group of specialists in gender perspective and Martin we started working on the project. For us, helping to make visible the work of women and helping narrowing gender gaps was not a matter of ‘putting women in the picture’.
We are still working on our manifesto but it covers three main concepts:
- Lead and inspire change through the implementation of actions with a gender perspective in the space in which we have impact, making us a better organisation that accompanies a new paradigm in the industry and supports companies to incorporate these values into their entire production chain.
- Commit to a responsible marketing and communication strategy as a manifestation of a new vision of the world and the industry, free of stereotypes and discrimination, crystallising a firm commitment to equity.
- Mentor our entrepreneurs by bringing women in our industry closer to information and equipping them with tools that make them leaders of the companies and institutions where they participate.
Wines of Argentina has just subscribed to the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP) set up by UN Women. How will this shape your work going forward in promoting and supporting the Argentine wine industry?
I am so pleased to announce that, on behalf of Wines of Argentina, I have signed the United Nations Principles for the Empowerment of Women (WEP). Wines of Argentina, as the first ‘Wines of’ organisation subscribing to these Principles, is taking decisive measures to advance towards gender equality in the workplace, the industry and the community, concentrating our efforts to develop strategies to speed up the process. I am convinced that genuine growth in the sector is only possible through equal opportunities for women and men. As Wines of Argentina we seek to be agents of change towards a committed, sustainable and inclusive culture in the world of wine. Adherence to WEPs is just the beginning.
What else is Argentina doing to support gender equality in the wine industry?
In 2020, the National Ministry of Productive Development launched 39 initiatives aimed at “transforming the framework of production; a new IRAM Standard for the certification of the Management System for Gender Equity. The objective of this initiative is to promote and strengthen gender equality in the productive sphere, and prevent gender-based violence in the different sectors of the productive structure throughout the national territory. Sello Púrpura is the first gender perspective certification program for LATAM advertising agencies, where we aim to certify responsible communication.
The ‘Sustainability Protocol’ of Bodegas de Argentina is currently working to include gender perspective and equality in the new version of its protocol. The new PEVI 2030 – the strategic Plan for the viticulture created by the Argentine Viticulture Corporation – will highlight a “social objective” to promote the inclusion of all actors, through innovation, integration and education processes, strengthening the social capital of the territories.
What can men working in the wine industry do to support gender equality in the workplace?
I believe this is something that needs to be done together but, firstly, men need to acknowledge that women have been systematically excluded from decision making positions. As Tanya Morning Star Darling stated in her latest article we could start by “examining the nature of systematic exclusion — and the lessons of those women who succeeded despite the obstacles — so we can gain insight into contemporary challenges and help design a path forward to create a more equitable and dynamic world of wine”.
Who are your biggest role models and why?
All the strong-willed women I encounter everyday/everywhere are role models for me. It would be unfair to mention just one.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?
“Trust yourself and keep moving forward even if you are afraid”. To be honest, I don’t remember who was the first person who told me that but as time goes on, I believe it is the best you can do.
What has been your own career highlight?
When I signed up for the WEP’s. Today, the sky’s the limit and I’m ready to break any glass ceiling I may encounter and help other women to do the same.