Creating a Diversity Committee

Blog Post

January 2023

Meet the RIDGE Diversity Committee! We asked Sr VP of Vineyard Operations & DC sponsor David Gates, Viticulturist & Inaugural DC Chair Vicky Cordero, and President & CEO Mark Vernon to answer a few questions about their experience starting a committee focused on fostering Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the workplace.

How did the idea of a Diversity Committee arise?

Mark Vernon: “After the death of George Floyd, the Executive Committee decided we should not only make a public statement about race and equity in our society but that we should take a closer look at how we were dealing with these issues within our own company. David Gates proposed the idea of creating a committee that would focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The Executive Committee agreed and ask David to be the liaison between the Executive Committee and this new Diversity Committee.”

David Gates: “Our formation of the Diversity Committee arose from the racist events of 2020, which led to a reinvigoration of our commitment to diversity and fairness in the workplace. We had to question if we were doing our part (as individuals and as a company) to combat racial, cultural, and economic inequities in the wine world.”

Why was forming a Diversity Committee important to you?

MV: “We wanted to not just talk about DE&I but to look closely at our own behavior as a company and see where we might be able to improve. The Committee would give motivated employees an opportunity to make an impact on this important topic and give the Executive Committee insight into how the larger community of our employees viewed these issues.”

DG: “The wine business does not represent our society at large. We need to do a better job of promoting BIPOC, women, and other underrepresented folks to positions of leadership. I have received many opportunities and privileges working in this wonderful industry. I want to help open doors to anyone who is interested.”

Vicky Cordero: “My close ties to the vineyard team compelled me to join and eventually serve as the inaugural Chair of Ridge’s Diversity Committee. People outside the wine industry might look at curated images of vineyard workers’ hands or their tools, but seldom are their faces seen or their stories heard. It was important to me to leverage my position to amplify the voices of vineyard workers and encourage them to feel a greater sense of belonging within not only Ridge, but the wine industry.”

Vicky Cordero, Monte Bello.

At what point did you realize that forming a Diversity Committee within Ridge was not only a possibility, but a reality, and an asset for the company and employees?

MV: “It took the Committee some time to come together, to figure out what the priorities would be and what tangible and achievable actions could be taken to address some of the DEI topics that were being discussed. After a number of months this all started to come together and the Committee starting driving some small but important actions within the company. After these initial small steps the Committee sponsored The Voice of The Employee initiative which provided an opportunity for all employees to share their feedback on a number of very important topics. The high level of participation in this initiative and the actionable information that resulted demonstrated that the Diversity Committee is fulfilling a valuable and important role in the company.”

DG: “The Diversity Committee has been supported by our Executive Committee from the beginning. The DC members are an amazing group; they are united by their commitment to this common cause, equity and inclusivity for all, and a celebration of the wonderful diversity around us. They are the future leaders of Ridge!”

What does a Diversity Committee need to get started?

DG: “You need 1) members who are willing and able to add their voices and efforts to DE&I; 2) leadership who are supportive and open-minded; 3) consultant(s) who have done this work before and can add their expertise, knowledge, and consul.”

MV: “First and most important it needs complete support of the upper management of the company. There also needs to be a clear understanding of what the role of the committee will be and how the Committee can affect change in the organization.”

Mark Vernon, President & COO, who worked for more than 10 years to conclude the Open Space land agreement and David Gates, Vice President of Vineyard Operations, who will oversee planting the new acreage. They stand in front of the old terraces, first planted in the 1880’s.
Mark Vernon, CEO and David Gates, Vice President of Vineyard Operations

What would you tell leaders or employees at other companies who are considering investing their time in DE&I efforts like Ridge has?

DG: “You have to be all in with this effort, it must be supported at the top and it should include all levels of employees within the company. To truly effect change in attitudes takes time. You must build a strong base of trust, be willing to listen to and learn from others, and integrate diversity, equity and inclusivity into everything you do. These efforts will unite your employees and make your company stronger and more successful.”

MV: “I think Ridge’s Committee has been effective because the members of the Committee have volunteered to participate on it. They bring motivation and enthusiasm to their efforts. Further, Ridge management has given the Committee enough autonomy to operate so that they can own and be responsible for the success of their work.”

Follow the Diversity Committee’s Progress

Just like we tend to our vines and foster their growth, we believe DE&I contributes to a sustainable workplace. Visit our new webpage dedicated to the Diversity Committee to learn more about its members and efforts toward DE&I at Ridge Vineyards.