23 January, 2020

Professor Eileen Scott: championing diversity in the wine industry

Professor Eileen Scott: championing diversity in the wine industry

Professor Eileen Scott, winner of Workplace Champion of Change at the 2017 Australian Women in Wine Awards (AWIWA), talks to Ray Ruano about mentorship, workplace diversity, and empowering women.

Professor Scott has been a force to be reckon with when it comes to implementation of effective change in the workplace throughout her career.

She has more than 25 years of experience in teaching and research in grapevines diseases, all while playing a significant role as a mentor and sponsor of supporting the education and development of women in wine.

As the Deputy Head of School of Agriculture, Food and Wine and Deputy Dean for Gender, Equity and Diversity, Professor Scott seeks to break down gender barriers and create better work environments for everyone.

Mentoring and empowering women

When asked about her greatest accomplishments, Scott said supporting women in the workplace was every bit as important as her wine research.

“Mentoring female staff in career progression, including promotion readiness and providing guidance and support in writing applications for promotion, is so important,” she said. 

Professor Scott notes that “women are as smart and as capable as men”. As true as this statement may be, women still only make up 10% of the wine industry.

Mentorship, continuous support, and the representation of women in the workplace goes a long way in raising awareness for the lack diversity and inclusion. Through encouragement and support, women gain confidence in their craft or work and accept the success they deserve.

“Female staff are sometimes less willing than their male counterparts to take full credit for their achievements and so may benefit from encouragement to be less modest,” Professor Scott explained.

Professor Scott also said that the number of women in senior academic positions has increased in recent years, with the future looking promising for the representation and recognition of women.

Breaking down gender barriers and creating better workplace environments

Wine Australia chairman Brian Walsh noted at the 2017 AWIWAs that many women studying viticulture and wine production have left the industry within a decade.

“We are losing talent,” he said.

As a mentor and supporter of inclusion and diversity in the workplace, Professor Scott believes in the power of effective networking and seeking out a wider range of mentors and sponsors.

At the beginning of her career in science, she wishes she would have sought out a wider range of mentors and sponsors.

“I have been fortunate to have benefited from some wonderful mentors and sponsors, but I could have been more strategic earlier,” Scott said.

How her research has helped improve wine quality

Professor Scott and her group work on the effects of powdery mildew on wine quality has lead to a greater awareness of disease and its effective management.

The team has also identified and developed strategies for the deployment of alternative conventional chemical pesticides to manage various diseases which has given (organic) growers more options.

Most recently, the team developed PMapp, a new digital tool, to ‘assist with assessing powdery mildew severity on grape bunches’, which was released in Australia in 2015. Since then, this tool has been adopted in Australasia and on an international-scale.

The app has made disease assessment more efficient and reliable.

“Powdery mildew is a serious disease that affects grapevines worldwide and can cause off flavours and aromas in wine if it is not controlled.” Professor Scott said.

Addressing gender inequality in STEMM-related fields

Professor Scott is the head of The University of Adelaide’s self-assessment team, which supports the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Athena SWAN charter.

“Over 30 of Australia’s universities are taking part in this process,” said Scott. “The charter embodies a set of principles to address gender inequality and signing up to these principles will help us to “level the playing field” for women in STEMM.”

Before the University of Adelaide’s participation in the program, it implemented a gender equity framework called the Dormwell framework named after the first female science graduate.

“This promotes a family-friendly workplace and includes awards to support research excellence and to assist staff who have caring responsibilities to participate in conferences.” Professor Scott said. 

The PMapp app is available in the Google Play store here and in the Apple App Store here