At the beginning of the 21st century, females were rarely considered for vacant posts in cellars, but that is certainly no longer the case. Over the past decade, females have been operating in increasing numbers in cellars and it is not strange to find numerous females in cellar teams. Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons in Simondium, is an example where females have been permanently part of the cellar team for some time.
Initially, female cellar assistants had to overcome many challenges, which could be attributed to an inherent conservatism of male colleagues, who sincerely believed that females should not be working in a cellar and to be a cellar assistant was a “man’s job”. This belief can be attributed to the fact that males are convinced that females are unable to do the work, as it is physically demanding and certainly requires a lot from females.
However, it is beneficial to have females in a cellar team, mainly for the positive contributions they make. It has been found that females generally increase productivity, because they approach and solve challenges successfully, but from a different perspective. Consequently, a combined approach for successful problem-solving leads to greater creativity. Females also have a more flexible approach and are less rigid than their male colleagues.
During an informative conversation with Ursula Arrison, Leverne Arendse and Charlene Carelse, members of the Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons cellar team, the profession of female cellar assistants was discussed. They were all employed as temporary workers in the Rupert & Rothschild cellar before they were appointed permanently.
It is worth noting that they are motivated by the entire cellar team to develop their knowledge and to achieve their goals. Ursula mentioned that there is an established ethos in the team to help and assist each other. There are new challenges in the cellar every day and she enjoys showing her male colleagues effective ways to complete tasks and not to get entangled in old habits. She considers it a positive experience to be under pressure and to consistently deliver quality work. She confirmed that there is excellent communication between the Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons cellar team members and that the information shared, contributes to sound relationships. Leverne confirmed that she is motivated by her passion for her work. Initially she started as a vineyard worker without any knowledge, but her goal is to continuously increase her knowledge and to share it with others. Charlene is also focused on achieving more and her work serves as motivation to continuously increase her knowledge. They confirmed that the Rupert & Rothschild winemakers make an enormous contribution to motivate the cellar team and to ensure knowledge transfer.
The female team is mentally extraordinarily strong but also have firm boundaries. Boundaries do not only refer to personal space, but it should be noted that healthy work-related boundaries extend much deeper. Boundaries determine to what extent an individual will commit himself to his career and will even determine the way relationships are established with management, colleagues, or even clients. Healthy boundaries in the workplace can determine the difference between professional fulfillment or burnout. Individuals with well-established emotional boundaries can refuse unreasonable requests or prevent colleagues’ emotions to affect them. Individuals with firm boundaries can share their thoughts and ideas with other individuals and will not take it personally if colleagues differ from them. However, healthy boundaries should be flexible, which allows everyone to take charge of what is acceptable. Healthy boundaries in the workplace can also be supportive and for the benefit of all and as a result good communication is essential.
Training and knowledge transfer is important to Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons. It is noticeable that the female cellar assistants are enthusiastic to attend as much training as possible and to increase their knowledge. Ursula and Charlene have successfully completed Wine Training SA’s SKOP 4 and Leverne plans to enroll for SKOP 4 during 2021. Both Ursula and Leverne have worked in Burgundy, France, which increased their confidence.
The Rupert & Rothschild’s cellar assistants are regular participants in the Winetech study groups and workshops for senior cellar assistants. After attending each study group and senior workshop, the contents of the sessions are discussed with the winemakers. The feedback improves communication and strengthens the relationships within the cellar team. Consequently, confidence of the senior cellar assistants is improving, and a better understanding is established of the various winemaking processes in the cellar. Attending the Winetech study groups and the workshops for senior cellar assistants motivates them and stimulates their curiosity.
It is worth noting that they each deal with stress in their own way. According to Charlene she will physically become still; Ursula chooses to be alone and Leverne will be quiet and introverted. Apart from being a cellar assistant, Ursula is also a forklift driver and therefore, it is important for her to concentrate. Charlene confirmed that female cellar assistants must be mentally extraordinarily strong and that that women in general are often unaware of their inner strength. According to Ursula and Charlene, females should be very firm in the workplace, and it is hard, physical work in a man’s world, but when they go home in the evenings, they remain mothers and individuals with personal obligations, even if they are tired. The structure at Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons is well organized and supportive and everyone knows his or her responsibilities. Therefore, due to the support in the cellar Ursula, Leverne and Charlene are passionate about their work and have established definite goals for themselves to achieve optimal success.
Leverne Arendse, Ursula Arrison and Charlene Carelse.