REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
Women in Wine event
July 20, 2020
Good morning everyone!
If I could characterize the Oregon wine industry in three sentences, here’s what I would say: High quality. Small scale. Big impact.
Over the past ten years, our state’s wine industry has seen an explosion of growth, with the numbers nearly doubling since 2005. But you all haven’t lost sight of your values: family, the land, and an uncompromising focus on crafting – in my biased opinion – some of the best wines in the world.
Although Oregon produces only 1% of the nation’s wine, over the past few years, you all have earned 20% of Wine Spectator’s domestic 90+ ratings.
There’s no doubt that the Oregon wine industry is a key piece of what makes Oregon special.
So special, in fact, that Dan and I named the latest addition to our family - our 16-week-old puppy, Jory – after our state soil, the soil that grows our state’s coveted wine grapes.
The Oregon wine grape and wine industry contributes more than $5.61 billion in economic activity each year, including more than 29 thousand wine-related jobs and more than
$1 billion in wages. And our vineyards and wineries bring people from all over the world to visit our beautiful state.
And yet, the Oregon wine industry, like so many other sectors, is under-represented in terms of the leadership of women and people of color.
I know that we’re working hard to change that dynamic and create an environment where women, and Black, and indigenous, and people of color can thrive and move into positions of leadership.
Women have played a key role in the growth of Oregon’s wine industry and many of our original industry families have relied upon strong female leadership. Like Susan Sokol Blosser, Nancy Ponzi, and Pat Dudley – to name a few.
This annual event is meant to both celebrate this history and elevate the next generation of women in the wine industry.
Key to that goal are two major commitments: activating diversity and gender equity, and fostering powerful mentorships.
I understand that a number of you in the Zoom Room are already in positions of leadership in the wine industry.
And you’re joined here today by many up-and-coming industry leaders.
As a lawyer who got her start in the late ‘80s, a state legislator in the ‘90s, and only the second woman governor, first LGBTQ+ governor of Oregon (and the United States) – I will tell you this: the road of my career was defined and supported by a multitude of incredible women mentors.
Governor Barbara Roberts. Representative Margaret Carter. Senator Avel Gordly. And former Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo. And so many more.
These are smart, articulate, take-charge women who not only pushed me personally to succeed, but also championed my abilities and leadership.
They coached me through next steps, they encouraged me to take opportunities they had heard about, and they spoke up for me when I wasn’t in the room to speak up for myself.
This is what women do for each other. Behind every successful woman, there is a group of friends telling her about a promotion she should apply for and copy-editing her resume.
That is how we make change on the ground. It’s not always sweeping, widespread, or immediate.
It’s leaders like the ones in this zoom room giving historically underrepresented folks who are newer to the wine industry the tools they need to move up.
I know this won’t be easy, especially now, in the midst of a global pandemic.
These are challenging and unprecedented times, and our historically underserved communities have been hit especially hard by the virus, as well as the economic effects of shutting down the state.
Now as we continue to reopen, we seek to focus on those who are all too often left behind. And by focusing on those who are most impacted by the pandemic, we have the opportunity to build a better Oregon – for everyone.
While we need women to lead the way, we must be cognizant of the critical need for racial equity and diversity in all Oregon industries, including our beloved wine industry.
In Oregon, we look out for one another. We make decisions based on science and data, we take action for racial justice, and we know that every voice matters in our democracy.
As we work to build a safer and stronger Oregon, I am committed to putting our communities of color at the forefront of our recovery.
Words are not enough. I will do what I can at the state level to lay a foundation for the state that values equity and diversity, but we are relying on dedicated professionals like yourselves to take action.
With every great challenge, a new opportunity presents itself. And here, we have the opportunity to come back stronger, by lifting up those who have historically been left behind.
It’s time to ferment change. I’m really excited to see what this year’s harvest produces. It may be small, but like Oregon wine, I’m sure it will pack a punch.