Interview with Senay Ozdemir

Interview with Senay Ozdemir

Senay, thanks for agreeing to feature in our newsletter. For those who don’t know you, you are a journalist, the first Turkish TV presenter in Europe, and the Founder of Women in Wine Expo. Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?

I was born in Turkey, raised in The Netherlands, and at the age of 22 I signed a contract with the TROS, the largest broadcast organization in The Netherlands, as one of their TV anchors. It was very new, as I had a Turkish background, so soon I was seen as a ‘role model’ for many women with a bicultural background. I used this status - let’s say my influence - throughout my whole career, whether it be in the media, in politics or in cultural initiatives.

Can you tell us more about your journalism background and why you believe storytelling has a fundamental role in everyone’s lives?

As soon as I started working in front of the cameras, I realised how impactful the media is. When there came a job opening for an assistant TV producer, I applied for it. Four months after I learned the ins and outs of TV making, the producer gave me more and more tasks. My senior and I were responsible for ensuring that 26 journalists and editors could do their job. It was a daily news program, and sometimes we had to work seven days a week. I loved it. But I also saw how important stories are. As much as unbiased, very well informed and sorted out stories. I believe journalists have one of the most important jobs in the world and I have always felt privileged to be a part of it. I have written for women’s magazines and international newspapers. When I launched the first internet glossy (in 2007) I was invited by the University of Texas to come and teach Online Publishing. At the same time, a publisher approached me to write a book about women with Mediterranean backgrounds.

In 2018 you started organizing the Women in Wine Expo to create a unique platform for women experts to connect with their peers. Can you tell us why you found WiWE?

While teaching at the University of Texas, I wanted to prepare a Turkish meal for my Texan friends, together with some delightful Turkish wines. I didn’t know then I couldn’t get any Turkish wines in Austin so I had to drive four hours to Houston and four hours back. While driving back I was frustrated that not many knew about the cradle of wine. So I started doing research. I travelled to Turkey and met with producers in Thrace and the Aegean coast to import quality wines to Texas and The Netherlands. I was very surprised when I met a lot of Turkish women in wine. The idea for the Women in Wine Expo was conceived when I met women in the US, Europe and Turkey while doing this research. As you know, my work in wine is a second act after more than two decades in journalism. When I started my media career, I was ‘the first and only’ Turkish woman in the European media. I didn’t have any role models, I had to pave my own way. Always. As I shifted my career into the wine industry, I noticed half of the wine stories were not told. Women’s stories and stories of less travelled regions (including the cradle of wine) are not taking significant places in the books. Of course, this impacts the whole story and history of wine. And what happens if you don’t bring the other half of the story? Exactly. It’s not complete. Since then I gave a TED Talk about women in wine, and I am now organizing the global conference WIWE for the third time. 

Can you tell us more about the Expo and what you hope to achieve with the 2023 edition?

The idea is to inspire, connect and support women in an educational and fun setting. The focus is to bring women in wine together to lesser-known wine regions and get them to discover or re-discover these regions. The idea of hosting the conference in the UK was simply because not only is the UK an emerging and exciting new wine country with delicious sparkling wines but it is also with London the beating heart of the wine industry. Talking of sparkling wines, this will be the theme on the second day of the conference with a Sparkling Wine Masterclass taking place at Balfour Winery on Thursday 11th May.

Day 1 Wednesday 10th May - meet & greet networking evening for all the women to get to know each, this will take pace at Balfour St Barts in Farringdon, London

Day 2 Thursday 11th May – Return coach transfer from London will take all the women to Balfour Winery in Kent where they will be joined by an all-male panel discussion with Simon Thorpe (WineGB), Ross Carter (Drinks Trust) and Richard Balfour (Balfour Winery).

As well as a vineyard tour, after a three-course lunch everyone will attend a Sparkling Wine Masterclass featuring Balfour Winery and Oastbrook Estate followed by a Cider Masterclass from Jake’s Kentish Cider before returning to London. Full details of day 2 can be found here

Day 3 Friday 12th May – Full-day conference at The Dickens Inn in London with panel discussions about:

  • Trends and Topics in the Wine Trade: Packaging, Innovative packaging and Education
  • Women in Wine Organisations from around the world
  • The story of a Turkey Wine Professional
  • India, the next big thing in terms of wine?

Full panel discussion panels and speakers can be found here

Speakers’ profiles can also be found on our website on this page

Any key speakers/ talks/ debates you can tell us about?

Day 2 (11th May) will focus mainly on English sparkling wines with a Masterclass by Balfour Winery and Oastbrook Estates.

For day 3 (12th May), our three keynote speakers are Seyma Bas from Constellation Brans, Ritu Singhal from Fine Wine & Champagne India, Queena Wong from Curious Vines. 

What is the most exciting part of your current role? And the most challenging?

Let’s start with the most challenging: the pricing. As all our participants come from different parts of the world, with high differences in income, it’s very difficult to set a price. London is already a very expensive place, not only for Londoners and people from the West, it’s extraordinarily high for people from other parts of the world who earn maybe one-third. Sometimes I wish I was a billionaire who could say: the conference is for free, let all these women come. But that’s not the fact. The most exciting part is that we have women coming from all over the world to meet their peers because they love the program.  

What do you think the Women in Wine Expo can provide industry members?

Women attend the WIWE for several reasons. As they register, we ask for their motivation. Most of them say they attend the conference to meet other women in wine and to get inspired from them. But they also see it as a great networking opportunity to broaden their international network. What stands out is that they also want to share their story.

Our main goal is to inspire women to speak up and take credit for their work. We fulfilled our job if our attendees became a member of a robust network and found a mentor, a powerful woman who can help them take the next step.

Our CEO, Ross Carter, will be part of a panel on the second day of the Expo alongside Simon Thorpe (CEO of WineGB) and Richard Balfour (owner of Balfour Winery). What would you like the panel to discuss?

There is a reason why we have a panel of men only on the second day of our conference. Normally we don’t invite any men, but because we get so much support from men like Simon Thorpe, Ross Carter and Richard Balfour, we wanted to create a panel where they can express what it means for them to have a DEI policy. For me, it was important to show that men in wine really are showing interest in this cause and supporting us. The men will be in a room full of women in wine, and they will be interviewed by three women journalists. So there is a huge equality there ðŸ˜Š.

The reason why we don’t have men in our conferences at all, is simply because we will discuss vulnerable topics that women like to discuss while feeling safe. It is proven that dynamics change when there is testosterone in the space. And it is also a fact that once men take the microphone, it’s hard to get it back. Again: the men only panel is to show that there are men supporting us, and the reason why we don’t have men in our conferences is that we want to create a safe space where women can be open and vulnerable to discuss the things that they are frustrated about.

All men in wine are invited to join us at the tasting event after the conference on Friday 12th of May. If they wish, there is also a possibility for wine merchants/producers to showcase their wines.

What would you tell those considering registering for the Women In Wine Expo?

With the need for change on many levels of our society including business, politics, etc., now is the best time for women to influence and lead businesses. And as with any business, it's all about the work and the relationships. The WIWE is there for women in the wine industry to meet with other women, and learn from them, and during the 3-day conference, they get the opportunity to really get to know each other, and develop a long-lasting relationship. It’s fascinating to see women from different parts of the world struggling with the same issues: finances, and balancing work/family (especially new moms find it challenging work-life balance).

What are the future plans for WIWE?

Obviously, we are talking to several other countries for the next WIWE. Since the start of the WIWE, I have had the ambition to create a directory where we could also develop funding opportunities for women in wine. I can’t do it independently, so partnerships must be developed. Also, the future plan is to create a survey amongst women in wine. Together with The Drinks Trust we want to start a survey on the gender pay gap. How much do women earn? Is it stable in comparison with 20 years ago? Are they part-time or full-time workers? What is their background? What are the factors that play a role in this? Social status, cultural background, age etc. If you look at childcare costs, sometimes it’s easier to stay at home for women than working and paying for childcare. But that also means they will put their career on hold. It would be great to start doing this and monitor the developments to see where to make a change. And numbers! It’s all about numbers. For government initiatives, for funding and to create impact.

More personal questions: favourite wine?

I love Urla Nexus, one of the best Turkish wines, coming from Urla at the Aegean coast. A white is always a Sancerre. And since I visited Kent, I love having a great sparkling wine.



To find out more about Women in Wine Expo and to register, please visit: