Wine,Wine Business,Wine Industry Discrimination

My Funniest Wine Industry Discrimination Story Ever ~ It’s a Classic

As if discrimination is ever funny; still this one is a classic and continues to make me chuckle.

A few years ago, while minding my own business, the phone rang.

“Hello, this is Diaz Communications.”

Amiable man on the other end of the phone, “I’d like to speak with Jo Diaz, please.”

“This is she.”

Complete silence for at least six to seven seconds. Count Mississippi 1, Mississippi 2, etc., for six or seven seconds, to get the pregnant pause, for the full impact of the “dead air,” as we call it in radio.

Laughing to myself, thinking that he’s thinking, “Jo, Pat, Chris… damn, you never know anymore.”

The man gathers his thoughts and proceeds to tell me that he’s a head hunter from XYZ Firm; and moves forward, not really knowing what to do. It was in his voice.

Meanwhile, I decided to go along for the ride; and, he did his thing asking questions, like I honestly mattered anymore. I mattered enough for him to make the call, until the only hang-up was gender. In the end, he was continuing with his cordiality and then we politely said goodbye. I could just see him on the other end, egg on his face and all.

About six weeks later, a letter arrived for Ms. Pat Diaz. Oh – my – God, I DID read his mind; which wasn’t the first time in life for mind reading. I’m pretty good at it, actually; so, I couldn’t wait to see what was written to my newly-named Ms. self.

Dear Pat Diaz,

We thank you for applying for our Public Relations position [for which, of course, I didn’t apply].

You are surely well qualified. We did, however, choose another candidate for this position. We wish you well and trust that you’ll find your perfect job opportunity, too.

I thought to myself, “Well dude, I read you like a book; and, since I own my own PR firm, perhaps you should have been better informed about a lot of things regarding this Ms. Diaz.

Sometimes, I still laugh about that one. It’s a classic. Yes, I kept the letter… If I ever need a good laugh, I can just pull it from the file cabinet, under Are You Kidding Me, Dude?

It happened in wine country, I’m not alone. I just chalk it up to ever-evolving away from ignorance… Things are much better than when I started my PR career, in 1983, and since that call.

10 Responses to “My Funniest Wine Industry Discrimination Story Ever ~ It’s a Classic”

  1. Robert P Behlendorf says:

    Not really a wine industry discrimination story. Not really funny, actually pretty typical. But I read it anyway. Better luck next time.

  2. That is a classic story and humerous as you were totally on to what was happening.

    When I first started my wine career back in the 90’s with Wente Vineyards, I was constantly sent correspondences with the Dear Dennis greeting. I chalk it up to either people assumed my name was Dennis and I was a man, or they really didn’t know how to spell Denise.

    I sometimes still get it today, like on my occasional StarBucks coffee, but now I just think people do not know how to spell Denise.

  3. Great story and so typical! My experience of running businesses for more than fifty years has shown me that the women candidates for any position were usually smarter and harder working than the men candidates. In dealing with a bank or other type of organization I will always choose to work with a women because I find that they do a better job for us. As a man and as an owner of businesses I’ve always wanted to work with the most qualified people, and excluding people because of their gender is a great way to damage the future of your own enterprise, because you are denying yourself access to those talents.

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    I understand, Robert, that you don’t understand. I don’t know what it’s like to walk in a man’s shoes all day, any more than you know how to walk in high heels, unless you like wearing them, right?

    As for luck, he called the owner of her own wine marketing firm… That’s the funniest part for me. I NEVER went looking; I don’t need to. So, the whole thing was a joke onto him.

  5. Jo Diaz says:

    Ralph, I love your comment.

    When I became one of the very first women allowed into Rotary International, it wasn’t challenging until I began to sit in on board of director meetings, just from curiosity. Our most senior member like the suggestions I was making, hearing things that could be quick fixes. They took my advice to heart each time. He said as a side comment, “Boy, you’re advancing us faster than any of us ever could.”

    Then, when the incoming president asked all of the members – in his first meeting – for suggestions to make his year memorable, I was careful NOT to be the first responder, but I was the second. In the time I had been in the club, the female population had grown to 10 percent (10 women, 90 men). (I had been the third woman member. “Since women are now 10 percent of our population, I’d like to see a woman on the board of directors.”

    Oops… Said he, “There is NEVER going be a woman on my board.” I sat down.

    Within a month, our most senior member came to me, and asked if I’d like to be on the board. I was really not sure. I hadn’t meant me… He convinced me. Sergeant at Arms, all 120 pounds of me. One of my duties was to fill a head table seat not assigned to anyone. If I had time, I could find someone. One day I was so busy checking people through that I didn’t get to find anyone, so I took the seat. At the end of the meeting, as I was cleaning up – another of my duties – the president came to me and shouted, “DON’T YOU EVER SIT AT THE HEAD TABLE AGAIN.”

    Okay, the owner of the hotel and fellow Rotarian was in the room, came right to me and said, “Yeah, you’re too pretty,” trying to soften the blow.

    At the end of this president’s administration, in his saying goodbye and thanks, he – again – asked for comments. Again, I waited to be second. “I’d like to thank you for having the courage for putting a woman on your board.” I hadn’t had one word with him from the moment he tried to chastise me, but here we were, and it had to be said.

    A few years later, this same man put a female friend of mine into the position of president at his country club… a very close friend of mine, so I immediately knew.

    We get more with honey, still, than we do with vinegar.

  6. Jo Diaz says:

    Very funny, but not very funny like my story, Denise. I got into this business in the early 90s, too. Yes, then we were to marketing what being an enologist was to a lab… A place to hide the women. We’ve come a long way, baby! And look at us now, both owning our own companies. Way to go!

  7. Dear Jo:

    My point was that the hook for this blog was “Wine Industry Discrimination”, the only such reference to which was that “It happened in Wine Country”. The fact that, like many of us, males and females alike, in the working world, you got a form letter response to an employment application is neither humorous nor unique to the Wine Industry. Perhaps if you had named the obviously uncaring business, we could have gleaned something relevant. Sorry to be so up front. As I said earlier, better luck next time.

    Best Always,


  8. Jo Diaz says:

    Robert, my point was that I NEVER applied for this job the recruiter called me about. I have my own PR firm, I have never even solicited for a client. Everyone I’ve ever had has been from people coming to me on their own.

    The discrimination happened because I picked up my own phone and the person asked for “Joe.” (I don’t have the “e” in my name for a reason.) When I said “this is she,” he knew he had stepped in mud. He never wanted a woman… Never. That’s my point. And, in his mind, for that long pregnant pause, his thinking was, Darn, how did that happen, Jo, Pat, Chris, you can never tell. The mere fact that I got a letter follow-up is that THEY CAME AFTER ME, really thinking I was a guy.

    Trust me, this isn’t the only discrimination I’ve experienced in life. I’m well seasoned enough to know it when it happens again. You haven’t walked in a woman’s shoes this time, so I’m going to just write it off that only someone who has had discrimination beginning with a father – as a female – knows it all too well.

    Best always, too. — jo (See, even my father wanted a boy. Smile.) It’s just a reality.

  9. OK, I give. Having been in the working world for most of my career, I have personally witnessed many incidents of gender discrimination, a rare few of which were in the opposite direction. Gender bias has, I believe, progressed faster than racial bias, although, in my opinion, there should be no place in the world for either or any. An applicant is qualified or not, period.

    By the way, thanks for the byline on your blog page. Not my finest, but I stand by it.

    As a former winery owner and winemaker in Paso Robles, I have opinions on most aspects of the business, about which I felt privileged to be a participant for nearly 15 years. I read the daily Wine Business Monthly newsletter and feel qualified to comment on most items.

    So there you have it. Look forward to more dialogue.


    Best Always


  10. Jo Diaz says:

    Robert, I did soft-pedal it, but I was (personally) very clear what was going on, during that incident. It wasn’t my first experience. Probably won’t be my last, and I do have some more severe examples. This is why, when the train pulls into the station, it’s a familiar engine I’ve seen more than once.

    And, I’ve been in PR since 1983 – not all wine PR, broadcasting PR, too. It’s a stress release to tell these stories; I don’t get angry, I get even, as the saying goes. Other women will benefit from each disclosure, as some of us have paved the way to more equality.

    Thanks for staying with it, until we both reached a common ground. Paso must have been a wonderful place to be. Delicious wines come from that region. And, it’s beautiful countryside.

    Best wishes to you, again, too. — jo

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