Women in Champagne Industry Able to Charge Higher Prices Than Male Counterparts August 23, 2017

A colleague recently forwarded an article about a study showing that female grape growers—a distinct minority of grape sellers— in the region of Champagne, France, were able to “charge systematically higher prices than male growers for grapes of the same quality.” This finding led two researchers, Amandine Ody-Brasier and Isabel Fernandez-Mateo, to conduct extensive field research to discover the underlying factors contributing to this unexpected advantage for minority growers.

          While past research had focused on buyer-side discrimination against females in the industry, these researchers chose to concentrate on seller-side discrimination to see if minority sellers—women, non-whites, and older people—in the Champagne industry received lower prices for goods, as is generally the case in other industries.

          The researchers decided on the Champagne grape market for two reasons: First, grape quality there is recorded by an official scale that is observed by all market participants, and second, pricing in the market is relatively inelastic due to limited supply and strong demand. “Together, these two characteristics—quality transparency and price inelasticity—would make it more difficult for buyers to discriminate against minority growers on price.”

          The study included a detailed quantitative analysis of nearly 6,000 transactions over a 17-year period, as well as interviews with 37 grape growers (22 men and 15 women), 14 CEOs of Champagne houses, and 16 industry experts. From the qualitative research, the researchers found that the underlying reason for the price difference was the relationships developed and maintained by the women growers. Because minorities are generally excluded from male-dominated interactions in most industries, these groups tend to “seek solidarity with one another,” and these informal relationships facilitate the exchange of valuable market information that their male counterparts tended to keep secret.

          It’s also well know that women tend to socialize with each other more than men, and they generally trust the accuracy of the information they share. One male grower in the study revealed: “Price is not something people talk about in Champagne. It’s a private matter.” Thus, because female growers obtained and shared more accurate market information, “they were able to price their own products more aggressively than the male growers.” For the full article, click here:

          I was fascinated with this research, not only because it highlights the value of women in industry, but it also provides evidence that discriminating against minorities can result in unexpected negative consequences. As a female executive in the wine and spirits industry with a wide network of exchange partners, I am able to locate and acquire the best glass at the best possible price.

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