Women Thriving in the Wholesale Tier

Jan 29, 2024
WSWA’s Women’s Leadership Council Celebrates Diversity in the Beverage Alcohol Industry


In conjunction with Access LIVE, WSWA’s Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) hosted a reception this evening honoring women’s contributions to the wholesale tier of the beverage alcohol industry.


The reception featured a welcome speech by Celia Maestri, owner and founder of Casa Maestri, one of the premiere tequila producers in Mexico. Maestri praised the WLC and its members for their wisdom and tenancy, adding, “I invite you to continue to gather together to support the next generation of women who are not only mothers, wives, entrepreneurs or daughters … but who are the core of life.”


Founded in 2018, the WLC helps develop and empower women leaders within the nation’s family-owned wholesalers. Members of the organization come together to create opportunities for women across the industry to learn and grow together, sharing knowledge while mentoring those coming up in businesses across the country.


“The Women’s Leadership Council is a unique space that brings together women from across the wholesale industry to educate, elevate and empower women,” said Hillary Wirtz, WLC Chair and Senior Director of Culture and Inclusion for Breakthru Beverage Group. “Through the various development and engagement opportunities WLC provides,” she added, “we are helping to advance the industry’s DEI efforts, further valuing and empowering the diverse perspectives, experiences and cultural backgrounds of current and future leaders that help our companies thrive.”


Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America has long focused on ensuring women enjoy opportunities to learn and grow within the wholesale tier. Now in its sixth year, the WLC is a multifaceted initiative that, according to Wirtz, “provides ongoing networking opportunities across wholesale member companies to develop and elevate top talent in the industry.” This includes the Council itself (led by a 10-woman advisory board), an annual conference, a mentorship program as well as an executive development track.


The 2024 WLC Conference, to be held this September in Washington, D.C., will be the seventh iteration of the annual gathering. Now in its fifth year, the WLC Mentorship Program has fostered 73 individuals by pairing them with industry veterans in mentor-mentee relationships. In addition, the organization’s Women in Leadership (WIL) program, which provides executive education courses taught by professors from Columbia Business School in New York City, has helped 149 graduates during its six-year history. Of those who completed the program, three-fourths saw tangible benefits in the form of promotions and advancements.


WSWA’s 14-member Board of Directors currently counts three women in its membership. Led by Chairman Doug Shaw, the Board remains committed to advancing diverse voices within the industry. Current Vice-Chair Dina Opici, who serves as President of Opici Family Distributing, will take the helm as the association’s first female Chair when Shaw’s term ends in September.


According to Opici, since its founding, the WLC has changed and grown “from an effort to simply bring women in wholesale together to share experiences and opportunities to a vibrant organization that drives thoughtful engagement by women across all segments of wholesale distribution.” The future Chairwoman touted the organization for facilitating “meaningful conversation through networking, educational programs and annual conference attendance to further their careers in the industry as well as broaden their understanding of the overall business environment.”


Running from January 29 through February 1 in Las Vegas, Nevada, WSWA’s Access LIVE is the only event that brings together all three tiers of the beverage alcohol industry.