Queena Wong, a prominent London wine collector, is the leader of Curious Vines – a UK-based supportive community of wine industry women that cultivates connectivity and female visibility via inclusive events, member-led newsletters and pioneering education support programmes. She was named Connector of the Year in 2023’s CODE Hospitality Women of the Year Awards.
In what way are you a wine connector?
I love putting people together. I do this within the wine industry, with collectors and also for broader hospitality. I allow the young to access the experienced, pull wine students together to have study buddies, create new social circles for consumer collectors or raise the profiles of somms further into the hospitality world. My friendships are diverse so I ‘bash’ people together who would not normally meet in their usual circles and can create incredible panels to inspire the next gen. The 360-degree nature of my own address book means combinations are endless.
What led you to it?
People are either natural connectors or not. It’s a desire to help others which drives connectors, rather than a particular experience.
What’s the best thing about your work?
The gratitude from the people I have helped and now how I can use all the connections to make an impact for good. I’m teaching a new way of operating that sharing is better than old-school turf protecting, akin to JFK’s quote, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’. It allows people to build a personal boardroom by having their own varied support network to seek opinion, bounce ideas and solve problems.
What’s the most common misconception about what you do?
That I am anti-men and aggressive. I have many male friends and many who actively support what I do and help me navigate the tricky arena around gender equity. Standing firm with values and principles also seems to make me suddenly an aggressive feminist. Couldn’t be further from the truth – I hate conflict.
Also people often get confused about my roles. I am a hybrid wine person, being both a collector and a champion of hospitality as well an advocate for gender equity. It is hard work juggling them – these seemingly different spheres help each other so it has to happen together.
What’s your greatest achievement?
Creating the first UK Women in Wine Survey. Having built a female community with incredible job and age/experience diversity, it provided me with a resource pool I could reach into to assist in its construct, and the size fuelled meaningful participation.
And your greatest mistake?
Not knowing when to stop giving to others due to my lack of boundaries and not demanding value to my contributions. This has resulted in my being taken advantage of.
Do you think women still face more hurdles in the wine industry today?
Of course, though the lack of equity for women in the workforce is no different to any other industry. In addition to needing equity addressed, wine being an alcohol also places greater risks to women’s safety. I feel positive that progressive companies will start looking at the sustainability of female resource and work towards dealing with both the equity for career advancement and their safety.
What advice do you give women about how to raise their profile?
Learn to be proud of your achievements and tell others about them. Self-promotion is not boasting and the more you do it, the more your self-confidence grows. If your friends or colleagues struggle to do this, then cheerlead for them until they can take their first steps to do it on their own.