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This Ballerina Left The Stage For A Most Unusual Second Career

Business

Until I was 21 years old, ballet was my life, with ambitions and a determination to stay on stage. I could have never imagined that my career would turn and rewardingly lead me to a wine cellar.


I became a professional dancer, after many years of training, when I was a teenager and I collaborated with different dance companies based in the city of Florence, Italy. The life of a dancer isn’t always the easiest, it takes a lot of passion as well as sacrifices. While still dancing, I started to study winemaking at university. I found out that the other students were getting together after classes to taste wine, eat good food and spend some time talking about it. Being a dancer meant that I wasn’t allowed to do those things, and my life was so busy that I never had the time to do it anyways. I gradually started to realize that winemaking was becoming more important for me and that I wanted to have more time to share this new interest with other people. It was at that point that I made up my mind and decided to quit my dance career. It wasn’t easy at first, because dance was the only natural thing to me.

Naturally, I had doubts and fears but luckily the wine world came up so interesting that I was confident about my decision, becoming more aware that art can regenerate itself into new disciplines, and can keep on transforming you, if only you are able to listen.

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What came after was the beginning of an inspiring new journey, just as complicated and fulfilling as ballet had been. After graduation, I traveled to different countries outside Italy, following harvests across the globe. After a few years, I started to feel the need to go back to Italy, missing its tradition. I started to look for a good opportunity to move back. I got in contact with Frescobaldi, one of the oldest growing wineries in Italy, and when they offered me to join their team, I took the chance to be part of this amazing company.

Winemaking is a blend of art and science. It takes passion and a good number of hours spent studying but also making attempts, finding new solutions, new ways of expression and harmony.

Lucia Minoggio at Tuscan winery Frescobaldi.

Winemaking is indeed a very practical job, so it is necessary to gain as much experience as possible on the field. I have operated in many different sectors of production throughout the cellar and the lab, to understand what it takes to make wine. I traveled a lot because it proves to be useful to know how in different places people can solve the same problem or reach a good goal in a completely different way compared to the one that you always used. I think it is important to be curious without forgetting the technical knowledge that is at the base of this job.

Frescobaldi has a very long history in the wine world and to me the challenge here is to be able to use my curiosity about what’s new, to blend it in a harmonic way with the tradition. There they gave me the chance to believe that even in the “old wine world” there is the chance for a woman to become a winemaker, even if agriculture is still mostly dominated by men. For this reason, I admire women like my friend Priyanka French - she’s an awesome winemaker who comes from India and works in California- and my mother who were able before me to make their way in this field giving me the passion and the strength to believe that I could do it as well.

I understand that for men who find themselves having a woman as a cellar master for the first time, it isn’t easy. It is something new and different compared to how it used to be for decades before.

It takes time to begin a new adventure and we don’t always choose who our traveling companions will be.

To face the journey as a team gives confidence to everyone, including the person who has to show the way to others. I empowered myself trying to share with my team the reasons why I take my decisions, listening to their suggestions and trying to solve problems quickly.

It is always very important to keep a high level of attention in the cellar, because many things happen at the same time. It can be challenging sometimes to trust your own decisions when you are in a rush and you make them just based on what you can smell or taste. Although working in the countryside means that it is possible to enjoy every day the amazing view of the hillside, the harvest is such a busy time that during those weeks life outside the winery doesn’t exist anymore. In the meantime, it is very satisfactory to taste a glass of wine being able to remember the day when the grapes where picked. During the year the wine evolves, just as one’s tastes and desires do; thus, it is important to develop the ability to understand what it needs and to always take care of every single barrel in the cellar.

Wine puts people together and, realizing that you are the winemaker who made it. It’s a feeling that doesn’t compare to anything else. In my opinion, it is important to keep in mind this feeling to be able to succeed. Similarly, when you are on stage: You are presenting yourself to an audience and all that you want is that audience to be united under the same intense emotion.

Career

Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.


In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.


Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.