International Women's Day 2021

Rising stars: the next generation of women leading in the pub sector

By The Morning Advertiser

- Last updated on GMT

International Women's Day: we asked dozens of the hospitality sector's future leaders for their opinions on the state of the trade
International Women's Day: we asked dozens of the hospitality sector's future leaders for their opinions on the state of the trade

Related tags: Women, Gender, Pubco + head office, Tenanted + leased, Drinks, Pub

To celebrate women across the on-trade and showcase the opportunities the next generation are grabbing with both hands, The Morning Advertiser has asked some of the most inspiring people in the sector to share their stories so far.

Amelia Coates, general manager of the Angel Inn, Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria, Inn Collection Group 

Amelia -2

Expectations of working in hospitality: ​I always worked in the sector going through university. But it wasn’t until three years ago that I saw my career starting in it. 

I came back to it literally by accident. I had a car crash which left me in chronic pain. I had become isolated and withdrawn and beginning a new job as front of house was a way for me to start to rebuild not only my fitness but my confidence and self-esteem. 

I almost felt I was taking a moment out. My expectation was that it would be for a short while. The reality was I fell in love with the trade – the lifestyle and the businesses ethos. Until that point, I had never found that ethos. To me, it’s not about finding the job – it’s about finding the company.

Best advice you’d give:​ I am in a role that is everything I have worked for. From being young you’re told hard work pays off – and it does pay off.

Be kind and strong. I’ve heard too many conversations alluding to women having to choose between these qualities. I don’t have to, and neither should you. Both are important.

Kirsty Fenwick, assistant manager, Innis & Gunn Brewery Taproom, Edinburgh

Kirsty Fenwick - I&G

Barriers to be overcome:​ I think the greatest challenge facing pubs regarding gender equality is the lack of women currently in management positions. I have worked with plenty of women throughout my hospitality career but only two held the senior roles of general manager and assistant manager – both work at Innis & Gunn. 

Traditional stereotypes are common in the bar trade with women tending to work front of house and men, back of house. 

The standard work pattern and late hours of hospitality also doesn’t lend itself easily to a traditional family friendly lifestyle, which may discourage some women and does allow the trade to be perceived as a more viable career sector for men. 

Having more women visible in senior positions, shows that progression is possible and I’m proud to be one of them.

Lauren Troiano, retail marketing manager, Wells & Co 

Lauren Troiano image

How can the pub trade continue to improve:​ I believe mentorship roles from key female stakeholders within the industry would help and ensure all hospitality groups are able to access this, providing training and instilling confidence from woman to woman. 

Ensure equality is fair when recruiting at higher roles and ensuring females are supported where possible when wanting to aim for more senior positions.

Expectations of working in hospitality:​ People say I must have the best job in the world, and I do. I thought I’d be constantly surrounded by beer and pubs and that’s certainly true! I think it’s sometimes not easy for people outside of our industry to appreciate the hours people in hospitality work and the planning and preparation that happens behind the scenes in order to pull just one pint, let alone deliver a Christmas Day service. I’d say our industry is sometimes underrated and I’d like to see that perception change.

Benedetta Scariato, senior sous chef, Darwin & Wallace


Heroes:​ My biggest sources of inspiration are the women in my family – my mother and my two grandmothers are the greatest chefs I’ve ever met. They taught me that we can love deeply through food and shared moments of conviviality.

Barriers to be overcome: ​To make people understand that we, as humans, can be strong, hard, and tough in many different ways and all of them are good. Also, to make people believe that the path we walk to become good leaders does not necessarily want us to be strong, hard and tough all the time

Ema Harker, general manager, the Star, Belgravia, London

Ema Harker

Expectations of working in hospitality:​ When I first started working in pubs, it was on a part-time temporary basis to earn some money while I was at uni. I never expected to fall in love with it the way I have, or that this would be the industry I build my career in. It’s great to have a job that really enhances your social life – I’ve met some amazing people on both side of the bar and many of them will be friends for life

Barriers to be overcome:​ I think, personally, that there may still be a perception problem of the pub trade as a male-orientated industry. On top of that, the work can be physically demanding, and the hours can be long and late. Even something simple like deciding how to get home safely after a late finish could pose a particular challenge to women.

Biggest achievement: ​Becoming the general manager of this beautiful and historic pub is my best achievement. There’s not many of my peers who have responsibility for hiring, firing, profit and loss, stock, customer welfare and have to be agony aunt to so many customers. It’s a really varied role – and balancing all those elements is an achievement for anyone.

Elly Alexander, general manager, the White Hart, Somerton, Somerset, the Stay Original Company


Barriers to be overcome:​ There is always an assumption by guests that the man in the room must be the manager, so I think we need to tackle these stereo types in the industry. 

Hospitality sometimes has a bad rep for long hours, difficult customers and employers demanding a lot from you, we need to tackle these issues and show young women that they can have a successful, reward driven career where they won’t be put at risk and they can have a life outside of work too.

Biggest achievement: ​Becoming general manager by 23. I always had my heart set on running the White Hart in Somerton when I joined, so this is a dream come true.

How can the pub trade continue to improve: ​Through better education, less stereotypical advertising (lads at the bar), and better maternity support packages. The industry needs to move with the times in regard to work life balance too.

Best advice you’d give:​ Anything is possible. It's not all about what grades you achieve or even having experience. Having the right attitude and willingness to learn is priceless. Be confident in yourself and what you have to offer and go for it.

Lourdes Sanchez, assistant general manager, Darwin & Wallace


Biggest achievement:​ As an individual, being in my current position, assistant general manager, is my biggest achievement. As part of a team, being awarded the Best Sustainable Pub Group 2019 at the Publican Awards with Darwin & Wallace was something great, it's amazing to be part of a company that cares about sustainability to the level they do. 

Heroes:​ My mother is the woman who has inspired me the most. She is also the one who has been always supporting me and pushing me to be my best self at all times. She taught me that the road might get bumpy but I should never quit until my goal was accomplished, and that’s what I’m doing.

Expectations of working in hospitality:​ When I first started in this industry, I thought it was a great way to meet loads of people, make good money and have fun. Soon enough I came to realise that it also meant long hours, a great deal of hard work and missing out on many family and friends’ events, but it’s still a great sector to work in.

Lily Waite, founder, the Queer Brewing Project

Lily 005 B&W

Career goals:​ I want to keep building on the momentum I’ve built with The Queer Brewing Project to advocate for safety and community for LGBTQ+ in and around beer and hospitality, whilst working to open up the sector for those who are currently overlooked.

The broadest, most abstract aim is for advocacy and inclusion projects like Queer Brewing to not be necessary. I want us to collectively reach a point where both spaces and beverages — be that beer, cider, wine, spirits, or anything else — genuinely are for everyone, and speak to everyone. There’s a long way to go, there, but some incredible people are putting in the work to make that happen.

Barriers to be overcome:​ The lack of safeguarding against and repercussions for assault and predatory behaviour, the gender-based pay gap, pervasive ideas of gendered beverages, and sexism, racism, homophobia, and transphobia. 

Biggest achievement:​ I think the most meaningful and impactful achievement has been launching the core range we released at the start of this year and seeing the feedback from not only existing beer drinkers, but LGBTQ+ people who felt spoken to by the beer sector for the first time.

Siobhan Feeley, distillery coordinator, Sacred Spirits


Career goals:​ Currently I don't have a plan as such. However, I am extremely inspired by my role models who have created thriving businesses for themselves and I would quite like to follow in their footsteps and own my own business. I would love the opportunity to inspire and teach others as I have been in my nine years of working in hospitality.

Biggest achievement:​ I would say my biggest achievement during my career would be whittled down to three – I hope that’s not cheating. My first achievement would be winning Think Gins - Gin Bar of the Year while I was manager at the Oliver Conquest (Aldgate, London). 

Secondly my development of Sacred Old Tom gin which went on to win World’s Best Old Tom in its first year of production and lastly and most recently winning Gin Magazine’s​ Distillery Manager of the Year 2021.

Best advice you’d give:​ Enjoy what you are doing and make the most of it, even if you don't think it's forever. Take the time to listen and learn and you never know, like me you may find your calling in life.

Nadine Prankard, general manager, the Iron Duke, Mayfair, London


Barriers to be overcome:​ We, as an industry, are a leading sector of the economy, and we should be extremely proud as a whole. That being said, I feel that the issues surrounding gender equality in this industry are not spoken about enough; there is yet more pioneering to be done by pubs on this topic.

Within my career in hospitality and within my company, the dialogue is beginning to open up, and we are fighting for our say. Though I definitely feel we are starting to reach a place in which we no longer shy away from the discourse, we still have a way to go.

Biggest achievement:​ Of course, receiving the call to say I had been offered my current pub would be one of my greatest achievements – at the time also having a second offer, putting myself in the middle of a tug and war between two operations managers – and seeing it come to life over the years through my development plan.

Career goals​: I can already say I have hit my first goal by running a beloved and successful London city pub – but where to go from here?

I would like to have the opportunity to manage different, more challenging sites. Whether it be a busy hotel, fast-paced events venue or quality restaurant – they all bring new challenges to the table, and I’d like to say this will keep me busy for a few more years yet.

Nina Collins, events manager, Sis4ers Distillery


Heroes: ​This is probably a very predictable answer, but my role models are and have always been my Mum and Aunties who are the founders of Sis4ers Distillery. They are such hard working, driven people who have created this amazing business. Having a family business can be tough at times but they continue to be positive, kind and hardworking people.

Career goals:​ I would love to continue working for Sis4ers Distillery and grow with the business. I am currently the events manager here and I absolutely love my job. We have some exciting plans for the future so I can't wait to see where those plans take us and be part of it all.

Barriers to be overcome:​ Historically it seems to have been a male dominated sector, but I think that is massively changing. I am lucky to work for a company run by four women where there is no inequality. From a personal perspective I haven't come across too many challenges as I have always been respected for the work I have done and been promoted when it's deserved, which tells me that we are definitely moving in the right direction.

Melissa Phair, customer account manager, Pernod Ricard UK

Melissa Phair Image

Heroes:​ It has to be Kate Nicholls, CEO of UK Hospitality, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. The industry has been amongst the hardest hit, yet despite this we’ve seen inspirational examples of leadership, resilience and collaboration. Kate has been the powerful voice representing the hospitality industry in our moment of need.

Barriers to be overcome: ​In the hospitality industry, around half of the entrants into graduate programmes and professional entry positions are women, yet this drastically declines at an executive level. The hospitality sector needs to break down barriers to progression and encourage more female leaders to help attract a larger proportion of women applicants, which will ultimately ensure there is a strong female talent pipeline for the future. The more female leaders we have, the more role models there are for others to aspire towards.

Jade Clark, head chef, the White Buck at Burley, Hampshire

Jade Clark

Barriers to be overcome:​ I feel there needs to be more support available for female chefs – especially if there is only one female working in a kitchen, in which case they may need extra support and someone who can listen. 

During my career, I really missed that kind of support – especially early on – and I work hard to support female chefs that come into my kitchen. I had to accept the sexist nature of the environment in the early days of my career and understandably a large amount of the female chefs I have worked with have decided to leave the industry. 

The only way change will happen is if the head chef and manager in each establishment give the right support to the individual and address people when they are being sexist. This is beginning to happen, but there is still more work to do.

Best advice you’d give: ​Make sure you have a support network for yourself – and don’t be put off. Things are getting better and better in our industry – but if you do encounter sexism, remember that people that give out hurtful words are unhappy within themselves and not with you and sometimes people are just threatened by your skills and strength. 

My biggest piece of advice is stay strong and keep your mind set on your goals, the industry is in need of a bit more girl power.

Isabel Cummins, key account manager, Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I


Career goals:​ Since joining the company I've managed our partnerships with pubs and wholesalers in London, and for me the on-trade is the best place to begin an exciting career in sales. Typically, we see less women at the top and I would love to go on to lead a large operational or sales team in the industry, with a focus on creating a diverse and inclusive environment in the future of UK hospitality.

Expectations of working in hospitality:​ I expected the sector to be fast-paced and fun, with the opportunity to work with amazing people, brands and venues. The reality was this and so much more! I have worked with some incredible businesses in the sector and this year particularly, I've been blown away by the huge amount of hard work, determination and optimism that operators and their teams put in to overcome challenges and provide excellent service.

Barriers to be overcome:​ I think over-representation of men in the industry can create stereotypes around a woman's credibility in the pub sector. In sales roles I have previously found myself trying to appease industry veterans who might receive a woman's views differently. This backdrop can create problems in confidence for women in what they view as a male-dominated industry and they may feel pressured to adapt their true personality to match pre-conceptions.

Abigail Spencer, head of marketing, Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company

Abi Spencer

How can the pub trade continue to improve:​ There needs to be a realisation that women are hugely important consumers, we make up half of the population and the role of the pub is just as important for us in our social lives. For me it’s about having a breadth of offering in drinks, food, in outlet experience which caters for your consumer base, and also for pubs to consider that this might have changed from where they were a decade ago. I think the pubs who have recognised this already are the ones who will be thriving.

Career goals:​ I am quite an inquisitive person and always ask a tonne of questions to help build my knowledge and understanding which has definitely helped me learn and develop quickly. In terms of my goals, the union of Carlsberg UK and Marston’s PLC to create Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company which now has an amazing portfolio of brands I’m sure will present opportunities over the coming years so watch this space.

Heroes:​ I’ve been really lucky and have met some incredible women in my career so far from the director of a drilling company who gave me my first ever job out of university, to now working alongside Emma Sherwood-Smith who is one of the best marketers in the industry and an absolute champion of supporting young women in business. I always look to women who are fearless of owning what they stand for and who can drive change from a place of values and integrity.

Lucy Burton, estate manager, Star Pubs & Bars

Lucy Burton

Heroes:​ I know it’s totally cliché but it’s the truth: my mum is my role model from the industry. She was the first ever female graduate commercial trainee taken on by Tetley’s Brewery back in 1980. She was the only woman in her role when she started but, despite this, enjoyed ten years with the company before taking the skills she’d gained to buy and run a hotel in Yorkshire successfully for 24 years. She is the reason I wanted to work in this industry because she has many fond memories of those years as an area manager at the brewery. 

Barriers to be overcome:​ I am very proud of my estates department, which is close to a 50:50 male to female split – for the pub industry and surveying industry, that is very impressive! I think we need to make gender imbalance and other matters of inclusion and diversity a key topic on the agenda of every business.

Beth Dennis, assistant manager, North Bar, Leeds, West Yorkshire

Beth Dennis North Bar North Brewing Co

Expectations of working in hospitality:​ I think there are two outside views of hospitality, one being that it's an unskilled profession and the other is that the whole operation is glamorous, that if you've got to wear a tie and braces to work you somehow are super cool. No one ever warned me when I first started that it would be so mentally and physically exhausting but also so incredible and rewarding to constantly be concerning yourself with others, whether customers or members of staff.

How can the pub trade continue to improve:​ I think improvement will come from constant conversation around it and not shying away from the idea that maybe things haven't been peachy the whole time or that we might not be where we need to be yet (as an industry). True gender equality comes from hiring someone because they are the most qualified for the job, not to fill a quota.

Best advice you’d give:​ Keep your mind open to the skills or processes you might need to learn and don't scoff at the things you don't want to, you never know when they might suddenly be a necessity.

Ruth Darlow, people relations advisor, Fuller’s


Career goals:​ I do eventually want a role in the industry where I can have some influence over how the people in our business, and therefore the industry, are treated. Hospitality should be an industry where women shouldn’t have to worry about juggling work and having a family. I am lucky that I work in an environment where women are given so many opportunities to succeed as well as the tools needed to get them there; I would love to ensure that this is available for everyone.

How can the pub trade continue to improve:​ More can be done to get women into the industry who may not have considered it before; running a pub is like running a business, there is more to it than I’m sure a lot of people think. There are also so many varied roles within the pub trade. Whether your interest lies in food or drink, operations, marketing or customer service, the hospitality industry has a place for you.

Best advice you’d give:​ One of the best things I did was find a female mentor, both within the industry and outside of it, which gave me someone to get advice from and discuss my career with. As well as this, I’d say have confidence; do not be afraid to speak up and have your voice heard even if you think you will be overpowered. Most of all, have fun, hospitality is an industry full of incredible people and opportunities grounded in giving people wonderful memories.

Jess Mitchell, national account manager, Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I

Jess Mitchell

Barriers to be overcome:​ Even in the five years I have been in the industry, it has come a long way, however we still need to challenge the gender stereotypes in beer. All the women I know love beer and we need to ensure this is reflected in our industry at every level. 

Biggest achievement:​ Personally, during these unpresented times, I have felt a great sense of achievement leading and developing our Return You Beer credit process which so far supported over 10,000 on-trade outlets in their time of need. I was also so proud to be a part of the team that helped launch Save Pub Life, our gift card programme that raised £1.5m for the on-trade during Covid.

Heroes:​ I’m lucky enough to work alongside so many diverse and strong role models who question the status quo, drive change and deliver results within this ever-changing environment. Learning and being challenged by these individuals has been instrumental in my success at Budweiser Brewing Group, I owe them for their time and support along the way. 

Outside of the industry, most recently I was inspired by 31-year-old Whitney Wolfe Herd a rare self-made female billionaire who questioned the norm and drove change within her industry due to her frustration with archaic gender norms controlling dating.

Naomi Walledge, general manager, the Lock, Stock & Barrel in Newbury, Berkshire 

Naomi Walledge, General Manager, The Lock, Stock & Barrel, Newbury

Career goals:​ My goals can change sporadically in this job. Some days, my goal is to just take a breath and get through the day! But right now my goal is to make my current establishment the best it has ever been. I saw the potential when I started working here 10 years ago as a glass collector. After I have achieved this goal, I will definitely look for something bigger and faster paced. I love the thought of change and beginning at another site that needs my help. It’s a strange sense of achievement knowing that I have been chosen as the right person for the job. 

Best advice you’d give:​ Be Strong. Stand your ground. Be determined. Never doubt yourself. Ask to learn. Have Fun. Be you. Be kind. Take the harder days with a pinch of salt as they pass by so quickly. Remember to have YOU time! One thing this industry has taught me; especially this year during Covid- 19, is to always make time for yourself. 

It’s important to remember why you love the job and sometimes you have to do that away from the business. Be yourself and everyone will love you – that’s the advice I have had for many years and I now believe it and abide by it. You’ve got this girl.

Related topics: Events & Occasions

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