The viticulture industry is almost unrecognisable compared to 30 years ago.

Three decades ago it was dominated by men, today, you only have to drive around Marlborough - New Zealand's largest wine region - to see women driving harvesters and tractors and wine logo-ed vehicles.

Pernod Ricard vineyard operations manager Lesley Boon says the industry has come a long way, even in the past 15 years. "It was seen as manual, hands-on work that was something women could not or should not do - which is definitely not the case now," she says.

Back then women were mostly represented in picking positions and gender played a big part in which roles they worked in, along with progression on the job.


Boon says in the 70s Pernod Ricard's original vineyards were mostly planted by women, and the few women who were part of the industry worked in sales roles.

Even 18 years ago when she started out there were only a handful of women in the industry.

"It was a casual workforce back then and those were the people who were available."

Lesley Boon, Pernod Ricard vineyard operations manager. Photo / Supplied
Lesley Boon, Pernod Ricard vineyard operations manager. Photo / Supplied

Today, that's no longer the case and more women then ever work in leadership, corporate and operational roles.

"You go to a regatta or a grape day now and it's 50:50."

Pernod Ricard, which owns Brancott Estate, Jacob's Creek and Kenwood wine brands, has a 40 per cent gender split within its New Zealand leadership team, and half of its senior management team in its distributor business, responsible for sales and marketing, is made up of women.

Its entire New Zealand workforce is 45 per cent women, 55 per cent men.

Given women make up 80 per cent of consumer purchase decisions for wine, it seems only right they are represented equally.

Veteran winemaker Jane Hunter, managing director of Hunter's Wines which was founded by her late husband in 1979, says the industry has gone through a rapid expansion.


When she took over running the business in 1987 she could count the number of women in the industry on two hands.

"Most women working in the wine industry back then were either family members of small wineries or else they were involved in sales whereas now we have women in winemaking, driving tractors, cellar hands, viticulturists, there right across the board in every facet," Hunter says.

Women only started being represented right across the board around 15 years ago, she says. "When I took over the winery in 1867 I garnered a huge amount of attention when we were doing wine tasting in overseas countries because it was so unusual for a woman, and young then, to be owning a wine company."

Hunter's Marlborough-based business employs 25 permanent staff, also split evenly by gender.

"It's changed a lot, I wouldn't get any more attention than anyone else," she says.

"These days there's admin, there's health and safety, there's all sorts of opportunities now in the wine industry - it's just opened it up."