Sheryl SandbergSheryl Sandberg, Yahoo COO, author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, is the founder of the Lean In Movement. She was the keynote speaker at the Professional Business Women of California conference in San Francisco this week. More than 4000 business and professional women came to hear her remarks on the current status of women in the workplace. She points out that there has been virtually no progress in the past 10 years, and women are still underrepresented in top management positions. She listed the many ways that women are still perceived as less competent than their male counterparts to hold the top jobs.

We thank Sheryl for restarting this long overdue conversation. Her movement will benefit not only women but the entire economy. Imagine what great things can happen when we unleash the full potential of 100% of the work force!

Bonnie Harvey was honored to be included in the speaker’s roster and spoke about the self-employment option.

Small businesses and start-ups can’t afford to entertain the “old boy’s” culture still persisting in many larger corporations. When we started Barefoot wines, we were up against the same challenges that every start-up faces: undercapitalization and limited knowledge. The gender of our employees was never a factor. Why? Because we had bills to pay in 30 days that we didn’t have the money for! The very survival of our company was at stake! We were facing insurmountable challenges establishing ourselves in the marketplace. We had to hire the best people to make and source our wines, design and manage our marketing program, and manage our business at every level.

Ironically, we as a company ran into the “old boys” clubs at other companies, and it was a challenge for us. Imagine trying to sell a product to a woman shopper that she wants and having to go through predominately male gatekeepers who were the retail buyers. From our research we learned that most of the wine was sold in the supermarket, and most of the supermarket buyers were women. They wanted consistent flavor from year to year, just the opposite of the vintage-dated wine business. Barefoot blended different years to achieve consistency and continuity.

We hired one of the first female winemakers, a female marketing manager, a female accountant, a female traffic and compliance manager, a female marketing materials manager, and one of the first female sales managers in the male dominated wine business. We hired the best, period! Our board was made up of two women and two men. It would have been foolish for us to make any gender distinctions. Most small businesses and start-ups have to hire the best. They have no other choice.

So why do so many of the larger corporations persist in gender discrimination? Are their budgets so big they don’t feel the necessity to put the best person in the job regardless of gender? Are the top, mostly male, decision makers inadvertently banding together to save their collective jobs at the expense of the companies they serve? Are the policies of all larger firms so similar that women can’t change jobs to another big company without facing a similar prejudice?

Next to publically traded companies, women-owned businesses are the top U.S. employers today. Will the large companies discover the benefits of treating women equally in the workplace before they quit and start their own businesses? Women-owned businesses have no glass ceilings. No wonder they are growing so fast!

Who We Are.

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact sales@thebarefootspirit.com.