Women In The Tequila Industry: Sophie Decobecq by M. A. “Mike” Morales

Sophie Decobecq among the agave.

No list of Tequila Boss Ladies would be complete without mentioning the likeable and charismatic Sophie Decobecq, creator of the award winning Calle 23 Tequila.

Aside from her wacky sense of humor where marketing her tequila is concerned (‘Tequila makes us smarter. So, drink smart” is one of her favorite slogans), Sophie has a unique perspective on the Tequila Industry.  Not just a female master distiller, Sophie is also French born which presents its own set of challenges.

To reiterate, we asked a short list of five questions to prominent women leading the charge for change in the Tequila Industry and beyond.

Read on!

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TA:  How would you describe your experiences as a high ranking woman in your position in a primarily male dominated industry?

 SD:  It has been, so far, a rich human experience combined with a non-stop working period.

Tequila is a male dominated industry, or to be more precise, a Mexican male industry.  Meaning that there is a cultural dimension to it, with its own rules.

Being a foreigner, you have to respect them or better you do your life somewhere else.  I have been told only once by a tequilero that this was not a place for me, being a woman; this exception being completely forgotten thanks to many other tequileros who have made me a very nice space in their world.

Calle 23.

Calle 23.

 TA:  How have you been able to change things within your industry?

 SD:  Did I ever change anything? (laughs). What I may have added is a point of view from a non-native person, with cultural habits of protecting traditions.  I still view through French eyes this industry in which I am deep inside for more than a decade, giving me the pride to represent, as best as possible, this Mexican treasure I fell in love with, and to spread the word about the category that is for me the future of tequila:  “tequila 100% agave”giving the full spirit of the agave plant (compared to the category “tequila”which is produced with only a minimum of 51% of agave).

My way of working in this industry follows a woman’s heart, which I would describe in my case as encouraging local economy, sustainable processes and Mexican culture, instead of having a business focused on money efficiency.

Please don’t literaly interprete this, as this is a very general vision.  There are many amazing men here doing this too, an example being Carlos Camarena from Tapatio keeping a place for his employees until they decide to retire.

TA:  What do you see as the future of women working within the Tequila Industry?

 SD:  Future is to build!  The industry is growing and there will be naturally space for more men and women. Current problem is that women are confronted with more difficulties to enter into it:  for the fact of being a woman, their capacity to handle the work is a challenge.  Same, in fact, as in other industries like politics.

Tequila Rules!

Tequila Rules!

There has been a female candidate running for Mexican presidency this year, and comments you could hear in medias and in the streets were mostly about being a woman more than about her program.  Which ever program each candidate had during these elections, no time was spent to question the fact that the other candidates were “men.”  Same in tequila, when importance should be on the objectives and the paths chosen.  Don’t you think?

TA:  What things would you like to see changed?

 SD:  Less judgment based on gender.  I am not a feminist, just humanist:  considering people for their ideas and the persistency of their actions rather than their gender or social level from where they come from.

[The Tequila] Industry had amazing women in the past, leading and impacting tequila empire as Herradura.  It would be good to see that native women could have the opportunity to retake more often that place, if they are the best ones.  Not for being a woman, but for being the individual person that would be the best leader at that moment, as it actually was the case with Carmelita [Villarreal] from San Matias and Lucretia from Siete Leguas.

TA:  Is there anything you’d like to say to women who may be contemplating entering and working in the Tequila Industry in one form or another?

Sophie Decobecq (Photo by Chris McCarthy)

Sophie Decobecq (Photo by Chris McCarthy)

SD:  If this is your dream, follow it!!

Advice that I would give is persistency, respect for the amazing knowledge Mexicans have about this process that they have as a heritage, and unconditional patience for all the unexpected you will find on you way.

This unexpected and unplanned part is frustrating at the beginning, but trust me, after some time you kind of become addicted to it.  Every day is a challenge with many efforts to give, but you then earn a life with beautiful aromas and flavors around you, as well as joy, smiles, music, street-non-stop-sounds, colors, beauty of agave plants and so much more.

Welcome to [the] Tequila world!

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Follow Sophie Decobecq on Facebook.

Follow Calle 23 Tequila on Twitter @TequilaCalle23

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M.A. “Mike” Morales is the CEO of Tequila Aficionado Media and America’s premier tequila journalist, blogging and reporting exclusively on the trends, producers, insiders, and hottest brands in the tequila industry today.

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