March is Women’s History Month and one of the ways we like to celebrate is by looking at the women making history today, for a better future tomorrow. When it comes to women in male-dominated arenas, it is especially important to share their stories and talk about the importance of mentorship and support, in order to create more space for other women who want to follow in their wake.
Two women who understand this very well are actress June Diane Raphael (‘Grace and Frankie’, ‘Big Mouth’, ‘American Dad’, ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’) and Chandon head winemaker Pauline Lhote. June is also the host of the The Deep Dive podcast with Jessica St. Clair, as well as the founder of The Jane Club, a digital community for women to celebrate womanhood, motherhood and discuss meaningful topics around disrupting the patriarchy and building community. Both women and their respective companies have teamed up for a series of empowering events during March and through the summer as a way to champion those in male-dominated arenas and beyond, and hold space for women wanting to express themselves, network with other like-minded individuals, and hear from women who are making history today.
You may be familiar with exceptional sparkling winery/wine brand Chandon, which unbeknownst to many, has a nearly all female winemaking team that has helped to grow the brand to be the #1 premium+ sparkling wine in the U.S. This year, Chandon has chosen to further elevate this fantastic female achievement by bringing to life a female-centric program with The Jane Club.
In celebration of these events and the table they are creating for women, we had the chance to pull up a figurative seat with both Pauline and June to hear more about their own journeys in male-dominated industries (winemaking and film respectively), the importance of equity in the workplace, and what they are focusing on beyond the month of March.
Pauline Lhote – Director of Winemaking at Chandon
Can you tell us about your journey to becoming Chandon’s head winemaker?
I grew up in Champagne, France, and was always interested in the magic of sparkling wine. When I was really young, maybe 14 years old, I knew I wanted to be a winemaker – and not just any winemaker, a sparkling winemaker. My parents are both farmers, so I grew up knowing that grapes and agriculture and terroir are important, and it made me so passionate about learning the winemaking process. When I came of age, I was fortunate enough to attend the top sparkling winemaking school, the University of Reims in Champagne. After working in Champagne, I came to the United States for a three-month internship at Chandon and never left. 16 harvests later, I lead Chandon California’s efforts to make exceptional sparkling wine.
Chandon is now the number 1 premium sparkling wine in the US, with a majority female winemaking team. Why is this significant for people to know?
I think it’s important for people to see women succeeding and thriving in traditionally male-led industries like wine. I am proud to lead an all-female winemaking team at Chandon that includes three incredibly talented women, supporting each other and working closely with them to craft exceptional sparkling wine from California. Chandon is also championed by women and mothers at multiple levels of the organization, from Sibylle Scherer, Global President of Maison Chandon, to Anne-Sophie Stock, US Vice President of Core Bubbles.
How did you first get to know June Diane Raphael and decide to collaborate on these events for Women’s History Month?
June Diane is founder of The Jane Club, a female community group that embodies Chandon’s values and our belief that the exceptional contributions of women are worth celebrating. We’re proud to be partnering with June Diane and The Jane Club on a series of special events this March, celebrating exceptional wine and exceptional women as part of Women’s History Month.
As a woman in a male-dominated field, what are some experiences that stand out to you, and how do you hope to change the status quo for more women entering the field?
While being a woman in a male-dominated industry is not always easy, I’ve been especially lucky to have had the support of men I’ve worked with throughout my career, like Vincent Chaperon and Richard Geoffroy at Dom Pérignon. Having mentors and professional champions like them really mattered in getting to this moment. Knowing how Vincent and Richard encouraged my career and lifted me up when I needed it, I’m committed to providing that same support and mentorship to my own team of talented female colleagues at Chandon.
It’s especially important for me to share that feeling with other women starting out in the industry and to help them find their way.
There is a lot of talk about equity and diversity in the workplace, but not necessarily a lot of follow-through with many industries or companies. How is Chandon walking the talk when it comes to these issues, and why is DEI important to you?
As a global community and exceptional sparkling wine brand, Chandon is proud to be championed by women at multiple levels of the organization, from Sibylle Scherer, Global President of Maison Chandon, to Anne-Sophie Stock, US Vice President of Core Bubbles, to myself. All of us are exceptional women in wine deftly juggling challenges and opportunities in the sparkling wine industry.
We are proud to be allies to everyone that walks through the door at Chandon. Allyship means really being a voice, listener and advocate for all groups of people – especially for people of different backgrounds, life experiences and vantage points – to help elevate their voices and create positive change through diversity and inclusivity.
We are a community of winemakers around the world, having wineries in Argentina, Brazil, Australia, India, China and of course California. Chandon is proud to be a globally diverse company. We champion diversity as we believe it make us stronger.We are always coming together to share diverse ideas and new ways of doing things. That is obviously very special and unique and not true of every winery or workplace.
What do you hope women who attend the events at the Jane Club will take away most, and become inspired by?
My hope is that the women who attend our Chandon Jane Club events will be encouraged to be confident and assertive in their own life; to voice their point of view and to champion their ideas and vision.
For people who read this and want to be part of the change, how can they do this? Is it as simple as buying a brand like Chandon and supporting majority female leadership teams? What else?
I do believe in supporting female-led brands and hope sparkling wine consumers will, too! I also think we can all be better allies, which means showing up for people to ensure that women and their stories are brought into the fold and become part of the bigger conversations.
Actress & Activist June Diane Raphael
Can you first tell us how the idea for the Jane Club came about, and the primary mission?
I felt pretty stunned by new motherhood. I realized right away that although there were lots of panels and articles written about how ONE woman juggles children and career, there was very little INFRASTRUCTURE in place to support mothers. Like so many other women, I had children in my late thirties – during the exact same years that I should be making the most money I’ll ever make in my entire career.
I felt guilty for leaving my children when I went to my paying job outside of motherhood and felt antsy about not investing in my career when I was with my babies. From reasonable hours to breastfeeding rooms to considering the cost of childcare, I found that workspaces were NOT built for mothers. Rather, mothers were required to survive work spaces that were built for men who had wives/mothers at home.
I founded The Jane Club to create a space that took care of the women who took care of everything and everyone else. As we strive to become the mother of all communities, we seek a community and culture wherein people can be their whole selves – across race, gender, sexuality, class, ability and age. Where they can share their work, their dreams, their fears, their grief and their joy. A space where inclusiveness is instinctive and not instructive.
As a Hollywood actress you are no doubt accustomed to male-dominated spaces and decision-makers. Throughout your career, what have been some of the most significant differences when you work with majority women in executive positions?
I really enjoy working with female directors because I find that I’m creatively more free with women directors. I feel less vain. Less worried about how men might experience the way that I look. Most sets are predominantly male and it remains challenging for me to be vulnerable and physically and emotionally bare in those spaces. I so look forward to working with more women in ALL roles on set.
Working with Chandon during Women’s History Month, the Jane Club is hosting a series of forums for women to express themselves. What do want women to experience the most out of these events?
For International Women’s Day we joined Chandon in hosting one of our first IRL events: SMASHING THE PATRIARCHY: A celebration of game-changing women in male-dominated spaces. Our hope for that evening and for all of our gatherings is that our Janes walk into the space one way and walk out differently. We had the opportunity to hear from our incredible panelists, Director of Winemaking at Chandon California Pauline Lhote and director Tiffany Johnson. But more than listening, our hope is that Janes are able to write, reflect and share how THEY experience male-dominated spaces and what we hope to change for the next generation.
As an activist you are passionate about disrupting the patriarchy, and amplifying the voices of women in the public arena through the Jane Club as well as your podcast. What are the issues you are focused on right now, especially in light of the current political and cultural climate?
I’m focused on the LA City Council right now and getting more progressive voices in office. I’m particularly excited about Eunisses Hernandez who is running in CD1. I’m focused on addressing the Climate Emergency and supporting the work of Greenpeace and Oceana.
As a mom of two boys, what do want to role model for them as they grow up? What do you hope the next generation of young women will do differently than previous generations?
I consider myself a mom of two boys until they tell me otherwise. I hope I’m modeling a commitment to taking care of both myself and my community. I want them to be proud of their successes while also honoring all the mistakes and failures. And I want to model what loving openly and honestly looks like.
Younger generations of women are already teaching me how to have a different relationship with my body. The body positivity movement that younger women have been a part of is inspiring to me and I’m so impressed with their generation. I also admire and look to all of the youth climate activists who are demanding a green new deal and a sustainable future.
We see a lot of commercialism around Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. How are you working to ensure these sentiments are taken beyond the celebratory days and months?
Well, some days I just feel like I’m surviving in a world that wasn’t made for women! But on my better days, I hope that I’m working year-round at The Jane Club cultivating a space that celebrates and supports women every day.
You can learn more about the Chandon X The Jane Club events by clicking HERE.