A Winning Woman in Wine

Article written by Alicia Lillington (BIR '13), from the ANU Women's Alumni Network.
23 December 2021

You don't have to do everything at once. I am still studying and being a lifelong learner. It's all about balance - although balance is something I definitely don't always get right.

For Emma Shaw, studying a Master of Business was the launchpad for a career change.

Emma was enjoying her work as an EL2 at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) when she began looking for a new challenge that could give her new skills and a different way of thinking.

This led Emma to the ANU. At the University, she enjoyed working with passionate lecturers and tutors. They enabled her to delve into marketing, commerce, and corporate responsibility frameworks. "The support from the university including technology, resources and information were world-class and made for a great experience."

Emma finished her Master of Business when her son was six months old. When her daughter was born in 2017, Emma decided to study wine making while she was on maternity leave. She is now halfway through studying the Bachelor of Wine Science at Charles Sturt University and while working as a Business Development Manager at Collector Wines.

There is no typical workday for Emma. She balances home-schooling with hosting virtual and in-person tastings, building relationships with other businesses in Canberra and planning distribution. Depending on whether it is vintage or non-vintage season, she can be based at the winery or at the cellar door.

Emma admires people who gets things done, like Julia Gillard. "Working in the public service while Julia was Prime Minister, I appreciated how Julia got things done - her government actually passed the most legislation of any Australian government, while working with a hung parliament."

She admires those who are passionate like Greta Thunberg. "When you need social change, there is a role for strident, uncompromising feminists. They push the conversation in the direction towards equality."

She admires resilient women, like her sister Beth, who was not able to complete Year 12 originally but who returned to studies after having four children and who has now completed two TAFE certificates while successfully pursuing her passion in landscape regeneration.

Emma is also inspired by fellow ANU alumni, like Alex McKay, the founder of Collector Wines and Stephanie Helm from The Vintner's Daughter.

In fact, Emma is strongly passionate about women in the wine industry. When Emma moved to Canberra from Sydney, she noticed the lack of diversity in the industry. "Let's talk about why gender equality is important and how it leads to better wine making. In terms of statistics - what do wine makers get paid? Why is there a gender difference?"

Emma applies what she learned from being Advocacy Convenor for the Women's Network at PM&C to this field. "To bring this back to the wine industry, it's about making the case for having a diverse team, who think differently, bring different palates and processes and from this better quality wine is made."

Emma ensures there is diversity at wine making events, especially on speaker panels or in wine show judging panels. She promotes the initiatives encouraging women in the wine industry: Joans of Marc, Diversity and Equality in Wine Charter, Women and Revolution and Australian Women in Wine Awards. There are also events to support local Canberra Women in Wine, organised by Fran Marshall.

As she gets closer to finishing her studies, Emma continues to make experimental wines to refine her skills and to work towards making wine more accessible to people. She has also released a mini-documentary to help people understand the deep wine making expertise we have here. "People think the Canberra wine making region is new, but there is a heap of experience and knowledge about the landscape here."

"We are proud supporters of the Canberra wine region. We produce seriously amazing wines here and we love seeking out new producers and established gems. The region will only continue to grow in size and reputation. Drink local!"

For those looking to pivot in their career, Emma says go for it. She emphasises a staged approach to career change. "You don't have to do everything at once. I am still studying and being a lifelong learner. It's all about balance - although balance is something I definitely don't always get right."

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