International Women's Day

Leaders in pubco HR and training

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

International Women's Day: HR and Training
International Women's Day: HR and Training

Related tags Women

Without an efficient and compliant HR and training department, pubcos would crumble. Here we speak to five women who head the HR and training functions of top on-trade businesses.

Name: Susan Martindale

Job title:​ Group HR director and divisional director restaurants, Mitchells & Butlers

How you got there:
I started my career on the Bass graduate programme before progressing into a number of marketing roles and had a great opportunity to work across the group before moving over to purchasing, during which time I headed up all areas of procurement and supply over seven years.

Susan Martindale

I then joined Marston’s as group purchasing director for two years, before rejoining what was Six Continents, returning as brand operations director and spent the next 10 years in operations, leading a number of high street and late-night brands including Ember and All Bar One.

I was appointed as Mitchells & Butlers group HR director in November 2012 and have overseen the implementation of our people-focused strategy, which is intrinsically aligned to our overall business strategy.

Together, this underpins our business and commercial goals, while putting our 45,000 employees at the heart of our organisation.

Where do you see yourself next?
Over the next three years my focus is on driving and delivering our people strategy, focusing specifically on identifying and building the great talent that we have across the organisation and ensuring our teams can reach their full potential.

At the same time, I am passionate along with my colleagues in continuing to support a diverse and inclusive workforce, and building engagement across all levels of the organisation.

Biggest issue for women in our trade right now:
The hospitality sector offers fantastic career opportunities for both males and females, however, I do believe there are some misconceptions which unfairly portray opportunities within our industry – many of which can directly affect women and perhaps the view they have around progression.

This industry is one of the most flexible in that it does not adhere to a typical 9am-5pm working day.

In turn, this means there is opportunity to work at times that suit personal lifestyle and family or care commitments.

We need to be bolder in promoting this flexibility as well as positioning the industry as one with a credible and proven career pathway.

I truly believe this is an industry in which you can move from the ‘floor to boardroom’ – there will be internal stories from within many organisations that support this.

As women within the sector, we need to actively promote our positive experiences and use these to attract and inspire the next generation of talent.

What, if any, experiences of sexism in the workplace have you encountered?:

I can look back on my early career where now, on reflection, I may have questioned whether gender played a part in some decisions rather than my skill set. However, fortunately, I believe in myself and my abilities to ensure I have taken every opportunity given to me.

I am passionate about making sure I lead by example and encourage others to the same.

Your advice to others who want to achieve what you have:
I believe some of the key drivers of success are irrespective of gender but come down to hard work, really understanding your strengths and fostering them, knowing your self-worth, taking opportunities to broaden your experience, having a great boss and timing!

I am proud to have worked in this industry for over 30 years in roles that I have found both enjoyable and rewarding. Therefore, I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking to make their first steps towards a career in hospitality.

Name: Jackie Burn

Jackie Burn

Job title:​ HR director, Punch

How you got there:
Hard work and to be honest just being myself. I have also been supported by some great leaders over the years.

Where you see yourself next:
Continuing to add value within my business.

Biggest issue for women in our trade right now:
Personally, the trade has been totally supportive of my career and progression.

The sector as a collective is considering how they can better attract and retain females to ensure that they can fulfil their potential, which is great.

It isn’t just about women though; complete diversity is key and should also be on the agenda.

I also believe there are bigger issues currently including pressure on pubs by increasing costs and regulation and, more so from my perspective, is how we as curators of the great British pub need to get more young people of all genders to see that the hospitality sector is a great route to a successful career rather than a stop gap.

What, if any, experiences of sexism in the workplace have you encountered?:
None really – maybe in my early career some inappropriate comments but as for blatant sexism – none.

As HR director, I deal with lots of complex situations every day, and my team and I pride ourselves on working with the right people to ensure we have the very best team.

I believe that there is more protection and a moral compass in the industry that is working to prevent such behaviour in the future.

Your advice to others who want to achieve what you have:
If the company you work for doesn’t allow you to be true to yourself then you are probably not with the right company.

Name: Suzanne Haydon

Job title:​ Head of HR, Stonegate Pub Company

How you got there:

Started in a generalist HR role in Whitbread 35 years ago and was able to work in different divisions, gaining invaluable experience along the way.

After a few years, I realised my passion sat with employee relations and policy. I just loved learning about employment law and its practical application.

I found employment tribunals terrifying but exhilarating and loved listening to the arguments and challenges during hearings and giving evidence.

Suzanne Haydon

When Whitbread sold its pub business to Laurel Pub Company, I transferred under TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations) and was able to focus on my main areas of interest: employment law, policy and reward and recognition.

Where you see yourself next:
Still lots of challenge at Stonegate so my work here is not done yet! Stonegate is a progressive, young company which continually looks to improve and I am very happy to be able to contribute to this.

Biggest issue for women in our trade right now:
Female progression is improving, however, not as quickly as I would like to see.

Companies need to focus on actions that will encourage their female employees to consider roles in the business they may have felt were male orientated.

Through conscious and unconscious bias training, clarifying roles more carefully and creating an honest and open culture which welcomes flexible working, we can change this direction.

What, if any, experiences of sexism in the workplace have you encountered?:
Not personally. However, in the 1990s, I do remember when it was traditional to recruit couples into pub management roles so that the man could work the bar and be ‘mein host’ and the female would be stuck in the kitchen!

Anyone who does encounter sexism should bring it to the attention of their company. If they don’t know about it, nothing will change.

Your advice to others who want to achieve what you have:
Do what you love doing. Try different things; if your company offers secondments, have a go at roles that may interest you.

Find your passion and then enjoy doing it every day. Never stand still, just keep learning all the time.

Name: Katie Longbottom

Job title:​ HR project manager, The New World Trading Company

How you got there:
I’ve worked in the industry since I was 15, my first job was frying eggs in a greasy spoon. My career really started with Revolution Bars, when my part-time student job turned full time after I graduated from Leeds Met.

With an incredible GM running the show, he supported my development into sales and events as a new opportunity arose with the opening of a second bar.

This was my first real career-oriented role, and I am grateful for the guidance and learning I adopted from Chris who even supported me through my application to New World Trading.

katie Longbottom

This kind and supportive approach to people management has stayed with me.

My first two years with New World I worked at the Botanist in Leeds, the trust that was put in me to develop my own initiatives and the confidence in me to drive them myself was simply awesome, it was the first time I tasted freedom within a role and I thrived off it.

My first promotion was into the business development team and openings team, I had incredible experiences with amazing colleagues as we launched new sites, and I organised seriously unique initiatives like the Guinness World Record.

Here, my professional passion continued to grow towards people, specifically to supporting our people and our communities, and creating opportunity for connection between the two.

I sat down with my inspiring CEO Chris and discussed my vision for where my skills could take us. It was at the time the most important conversation of my career.

To my absolute empowerment he agreed, and we made the move into HR to create a new role where I could focus on our people, to enhance their experience with New World and drive our community engagement.

Working with my open-minded and incredible HR Director Natasha, I love my job. I think I have the best job in the industry.

What an ego! From events for fun and connection, to amazing community projects, to wellbeing and personal development projects. It’s all the good stuff I believe in and these projects are driven from the heart.

Where you see yourself next:
This will come as a surprise after explaining how much I love my role but I am on the cusp of a career break, as I fly on a one-way ticket to Central America in April with the view of expanding my knowledge and learning, and fulfilling a long-term pipe dream of writing a novel.

After that, my future goal is unwritten, which is exciting and empowering in itself.

What is certain, is that the development and connections I have made within this amazing industry of bright and powerful people, has set the tone for my ambition and confidence in my own success, and I will be back for more.

Biggest issue for women in our trade right now:
I believe that barriers for working parents in hospitality are still alive, with the high demands of working in the industry requiring flexibility.

And I say parent because actually, the lingering barriers for working female parents can be just as much alive for working male parents.

Therefore, I think our evolving perception as a society is everything. I don’t believe the physical barriers are still there if the person has the passion and desire to progress, with innovations in HR offering specifically support working mothers from maternity packages to flexible working contracts.

But, archaic perceptions of working in an industry ‘not appropriate’ for senior female roles, is a barrier.

Once the perceptions change, the next generation will choose their career paths based on personal passion, not what works for males/females.

This change is happening right now, and this will also change the gender pay gap in senior roles, which exists in progressive companies only because a lot of senior roles are still male dominated – due to the old industry ways of being a male-dominated industry within the senior roles.

What, if any, experiences of sexism in the workplace have you encountered?:
My experiences of sexism in the workplace was a fair few moons ago, as a young backpacker abroad. I have been fortunate enough to not have encountered this personally in this country.

On two occasions I was unable to get the role I wanted because of my sex, and another I was demoted from a role after being ‘wrongfully promoted’ by a supervisor.

The owner used to call me ‘that thing in the red’ (I often wore a red T-shirt). My employment did not last long

I left this role and made all the noise I desired about it... much to the owner’s total infuriation.

I must add it was not ‘very HR’ of me, but was certainly impactful for those colleagues I left behind.

I think working for amazing and open-minded companies has allowed me and so many others to let go of the perceptions of sexism in the workplace and feel equal to a level of normality.

It is not something I would consider being a barrier for me. And my experiences with sexism in my earlier years has made certain that I would never keep quiet if it ever did happen to me, or someone I knew, again.

Your advice to others who want to achieve what you have:
Personally, I think self-belief and courage are incredibly important qualities to hold. Self-belief to drive your vision and build great and big dreams that you can set and smash with confidence.

Courage, to approach everything with bravery and kindness, for honest connections with the people around you and to drive your bold voice in a loud world.

And use your bold voice to communicate your big dreams, and to support those around you with kindness. Without these qualities I know I could not have progressed to where I am today.

Name: Lyndsay Jones

Lyndsay Jones

Job title:​ Head of People

How you got there:
I’ve been lucky to work with some really great companies and leaders. 

My story started when I graduated uni with a English Literature degree and then my appendics burst and my graduate job in resourcing had to be out on hold. 

I took a temp role with Max Speilmann and it was here that I discovered my love of HR, as I worked in a male dominated warehouse and HR was in our head office in Scotland. 

From here I was made redundant and joined Iceland Foods and I was here for over four-and-a-half years and I worked through the different HR roles, from a HR Advisor, Employee Relations Specialist and then to Area HR Manager, whilst studying for my CIPD qualification. 

My Line Managers during this time were all strong females that had progressed internally and allowed me to progress and learn.

I went from a head office role to a small area support role and then to a geographical mobile role, covering a variety of areas including Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria – not all at the same time! 

I was then made redundant for a second time frim Iceland Foods, following a large restructure, the new structure did not excite me to want to continue with Iceland and so I joined Swarovski. 

Moving from budget retail to high-end jewellery and accessories is not an obvious choice and although the pace was slower, I looked after half of the UK and also Ireland as a HR business Partner. 

I loved the challenge of EU law and my knowledge developed further – even though it meant having to carry round two different handbook and policies as there were so many differences. From Swarovski, I made the move into hospitality as I was missing the faster paced life. 

I joined Casual Dining Group as a Regional HR Business Partner, and initially I looked after Bella Italia, before also picking up Café Rouge, which increased my sites to 100 over a very large geographical area. 

I joined The Alchemist in April 2018, feeling very excited to join a business that fascinated me as a customer and I knew that the morals that I live by where also reflected in The Alchemist ethos and also customer proposition.

I interviewed in the January and watched with anticipation as they opened Nottingham, and I was offered the role in the March, with a April 2018 start date. 

Where you see yourself next:
As The Alchemist continues to open new venues, there are so many opportunities for my role and my team to grow and develop.

I love looking back at projects that I’ve been involved in and how they have been accepted into the business.

The satisfaction of seeing your ideas being embraced and benefitting the business is amazing and this as long as this feeling continues, I will continue to love my job! 

Work life balance is so important to me and The Alchemist supports this, and I’ve looked for this for such a long time, that I don’t plan to go anywhere else anytime soon!

Biggest issue for women in our trade right now:
Hospitality has a stigma of long hour and late nights and there was definitely some anticipation on my part when I first joined hospitality about feeling safe. 

Coming from retail, there is only so much chaos someone can cause whilst shopping, but when you add in late nights, alcohol and city centre locations as a female I was unsure if I would ever feel vulnerable leaving work.

Our teams are really mixed and there is always a feeling of team and I’m thankful to say that my anticipations were soon put at ease, and I’ve never felt unsafe.

What, if any, experiences of sexism in the workplace have you encountered?:​ 
In my early career days, there was an association that you had to be loud and demanding to be successful, and I wouldn’t describe myself as either.

I was a young HR Manager that would want to talk things through and make the right decisions as this was not always how others worked, but it didn’t mean I was in any way less knowledgeable, but it took me a while to accept this

Your advice to others who want to achieve what you have:
Everyone is different and that’s ok.  Go with your gut and ask those questions that you have whizzing around your head or that you just keep coming back to, you will only become credible if you can own and justify what you are asking others to do. 

And more than anything else, make sure that you have a job that allows you to have a life and do the things that make you happy.

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