Sarah Willingham, NightcapJob title
CEO and Founder of Nightcap PLCBest advice received
Surround yourself with brilliant people in life and work.Advice given
As aboveChallenges faced
Global pandemic, launching a hospitality company during a hard lockdown with no vaccine. Recently, train strikes, they have been v v challenging.Have things changed for women since you started your career?
It was very male dominated when I first started. Now there are more women working in hospitality and more senior women and they are coming up the ranks. We are not underestimated anymore. More than 50% of my workforce is women.What barriers are there to still overcome and how would you suggest this is tackled?
Two fold for me:
EMOTIONAL – Imposter syndrome is a positive and negative and can be passed down. That feeling of not belonging. It’s actually a super power and a lot of women should own it.
PRACTICAL – Difficult to mix motherhood and work, you want a career and be a mum but also a ‘present’ mum and be around for them. We need childcare for young children or women will stop work. Important they are supported through the ranks.How can the sector #EmbraceEquity?
Ensure all doors are always open for all stages of life and don’t let there be any blocks in the way of working your way up
Shirley Couchman, Wells & CoJob title
Chief operations officerBest advice you’ve received
To remember to listen to understand, not to simply reply. We are often so focussed on what we want to say that we miss the most enlightening information from othersBest advice you’ve given
Don’t be afraid to fail - failure is just a step on the way to success and shows that you are open to trying new things! Look at failure critically and use that information to build your next stepsWhat are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Without a doubt the last three years have been the biggest challenge! The Covid pandemic, supply chain issues, inflation, workforce challenges, consumer confidence lows - we face what previously would have been a career defining challenge, every Monday morning! But at Wells we’ve navigated these challenges and opened a brand-new state of the art brewery, expanded our managed house portfolio and instigated new ways of working – all of which is down to the strength of the team at Wells. They are excellent.
Have things changed for women in the sector since you began your career? Yes they have. When I was younger I had to sign an NDA to get a longer maternity as no one at my level have been pregnant before! The NDA gave me 12 weeks leave – I had only six weeks with my first, which, looking back, I don’t know how we managed! I’m so pleased to see the flexibility and support that is now built into the fabric of working life for parents.What are the barriers that are still to be overcome and how could this be tackled?
As my generation of women ages, we need to understand and support better the effects of perimenopause and the menopause - there is a wealth of talent out there in the sector that we could lose by not addressing this vitally important issue.
How can the sector #EmbraceEquity? We still need more women and diversity influencing decisions at the top - I count myself as very lucky working in such a forward-thinking business that is steeped in history. They’re not afraid to move and change and as a result 50% of our board is female and 50% of our leadership team is female.
Clair Preston-Beer, Greene King pubs
Managing directorBest advice you’ve received
Be the best version of yourself that you can beBest advice you’ve given
Be yourself, challenge pre-conceived views, take your own path, find something that you love to do! Life goes quick – fit in as much in as you can!What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Figuring out how to become an effective and happy working parent has probably been the biggest challenge I have faced. Trying to balance and prioritise my time to make sure I’m there for my husband, children, friends, family and colleagues. Negotiating with a room full of 30 men in a meeting room in the Middle East was an interesting challenge. High levels of internal resilience were required to stay calm and stick to the plan. But I was really happy to represent change in that moment – it felt good!Have things changed for women in the sector since you began your career?
Yes definitely…when I started my career I was more often than not, the lone woman in a meeting room surrounded by men. The hospitality sector is realising that women make up an incredibly important part of the customer groups who use hospitality brands, so having women working at all levels of an organisation brings different and valuable perspectives to decision making. I see big changes starting across the sector with businesses working really hard to create strong succession plans to create more diverse leadership teams. The challenge is that there is a lag before we see some of this succession put into practice.What are the barriers that are still to be overcome and how could this be tackled?
Ensuring that the hospitality sector is seen as a fun and interesting place to come and have a career is key. There are still perceptions that the hospitality sector is an inferior place to have a career, which I categorically disagree with. The sector also needs to reassure women that it is a safe and flexible space to come and work in. We need to do more to support different working patterns for women and to create a supportive environment for women as they navigate maternity leave. Better policies and better training and education of for line managers is key to unlocking this.How can the sector #EmbraceEquity?
The sector can continue to work with government to create bolder programmes to support people from all backgrounds to consider a career in hospitality. Whether that is through apprenticeships, prison leavers, the Kickstart Programme. The hospitality sector is uniquely placed to be the leader in this across UK business.
Hayley Pellegrini, Pelle Pub CompanyJob title
PartnerBest advice you’ve received
Don't try to please all of the people all of the time. This was a great piece of advice as it is natural for us as hospitality people to try and please, but trying to please everyone just dilutes your brand.Best advice you’ve given
Learn the difference between managing and leading. Being a good manager is a great skill but it is exhausting as you are constantly having to manage people, learn to lead the team and they will become more self managing and free your time up for other tasks.What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
In the beginning, we tried to reinvest too quickly and it nearly all came crashing down. That was more than 18 years ago now and we have learnt to pace ourselves and not over extend ourselves. Contingency funds are vital in this business.Have things changed for women in the sector since you began your career?
Things have changed over the way people see me and address me, this may be because I am older now or because the landscape has changed and we as women are seen more as business women and not barmaids.What are the barriers that are still to be overcome and how could this be tackled?
I try not to think of things as being barriers, obstacles are easier to overcome and I am lucky to know lots of very strong women in this business and we support each other. Having said that, I also know a lot of strong men in the trade and rely on them just as much.How can the sector #EmbraceEquity?
This is a tough question and I really don't have the answer, the only thing I would say is that we as a small business do embrace equality, not just in gender but also in age.
Emma McClarkin, the British Beer & Pub AssociationJob title
Chief executiveBest advice you’ve received
I am lucky in that I work in an industry I am genuinely passionate about. I have been mentored and guided by a number of incredible people (men and women) about ways in which we can celebrate the role of beer and pubs and help break stereotypes about a sector that is much loved by one and all. The best advice I have received was to just keep on trying, and never give up. Keep knocking on that door till one opens!Best advice you’ve given
I believe every individual, particularly women, must be given a level playing field and a solid foundation to climb to the top. Seeing people succeed and progress brings me a lot of joy and satisfaction. I encourage my team to approach people they admire to help them map out a pathway to a career that they can be proud of. It’s important to keep in touch with all those we meet on our journey. You never know when you might need them and vice versa.What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
I have mainly worked in largely male dominated environments. And traditionally beer and pub industry was seen as a male dominated sector, but things have changed significantly in the last few years. More and more pubs and breweries are seeing the benefits of having a diverse team from top to bottom. And I am really proud of the way our sector is focusing on its people and creating rewarding careers for everyone, including women.Have things changed for women in the sector since you began your career?
Make no mistake that we are still on this journey in Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) as an industry, but I think we have come a long way in the last few years and offer a safe and warm welcome to all across our venues. It’s a personal priority for me to ensure that we are focussing on making our teams more diverse and inclusive and changing perceptions, so we are seen as a result oriented and forward-looking industry. The brewing sector currently has more female apprentices than ever before, following in the footsteps of the pub sector that now has 54 percent representation of women. I am very proud of the work we have done at the BBPA to lead on EDI with our Open To All Charter.What are the barriers that are still to be overcome and how could this be tackled?
One of the biggest challenges we face as a sector is to change the outdated perceptions of an increasingly inclusive industry. As an industry we are looking at our recruitment practices, how we are communicating, the language that we use and trying to find ways to ensure that we have diverse teams that we know deliver real results and allow our businesses to truly reflect the communities they are at the heart of. That is how we can attract the best talent and reach our growth potential.How can the sector #EmbraceEquity?
From producing guidance and practical tips to shining a spotlight on success within the sector, we at the BBPA proactively support members in their role providing safe, inclusive spaces for customers and team. We are developing a series of events throughout 2023 to support members and the wider industry to embed diversity and inclusion across their organisations. Our Open To All Charter sets out commitments for the organisations within the sector to sign up and enact real, long-term change on diversity and inclusion.
Kate Nicholls, UKHospitalityJob title
Chief executiveBest advice you’ve received?
Be authentic and bring the real you to work. In this role, that means staying focused and true to what the industry needs and wants, but being open and honest about what is achievable, while also holding up a mirror to thing things we need to change to get there. It’s about speaking truth to power – on both sides. At a more personal level, it’s about letting the real person shine through: keeping too much of a professional demeanour meant I lost out on opportunities within work because people didn’t know the real me.Best advice you’ve given?
‘Lift as you climb’. This is something I’ve tried to do throughout my career, particularly being a woman working in several male-dominated industries. It came from one of my first bosses at Whitbread, who always emphasised the importance of being helpful and supportive to everyone, and I’ve tried to carry it through to others and build supportive networks. It certainly underpinned the work I did with Plan B on mentoring, and with WiHTL on diversity and inclusivity, at the start of my role in UKHospitality.What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
The pandemic was the most challenging two years of my entire career, with the sector teetering on the edge of abyss and thousands of operators facing impending ruin. There were times that were very bleak indeed and, without realising it at the time, I’d become an emotional sponge, absorbing all the worst fears of thousands of operators faced with their life’s work being left in tatters, as well as putting protective arms around the UKHospitality team.
While it was immeasurably challenging, it also brought out the best in the sector as operators were helping to house the homeless, feeding front line workers and supporting their local communities.
Of course, the challenges continue with the ongoing cost of living and doing business crises, which is heaping enormous pressure on operators.Have things changed for women in the sector since you began your career?
Happily, there’s significantly better representation now across all levels of the business. At the inaugural ALMR Christmas Lunch in the mid-1990s, you could count the women in the room on the fingers of one hand, but now we’ve more than 50% at operational levels.
When I started at UKHospitality in 2018, we weren’t on track to meet the Hampton Alexander targets for female representation on Boards and gender pay, but four years on and we’re now at a broad hospitality sector level, having almost eliminated the gender pay gap – it’s the narrowest of all sectors of the economy – while at the same time boasting a third of all Board positions being female occupied. What’s more, unlike other sectors, our representation is at executive, not just non-executive, level; and, crucially, is extremely strong at ex-comm level, meaning we’ve a strong pipeline of talent coming through.What are the barriers that are still to be overcome and how could this be tackled?
While we’re certainly getting better, there remains lots to do, especially in the pub and tenanted pub sectors. We’re still losing too many good women from the sector once they move up beyond operations manager level, and we continue to place too great an emphasis on the operational background to the most senior Board positions. We must make it easier at all levels, while at the same time enabling all employees to balance work and family commitments, provide the ladders back through to ex-comm and senior level roles, and place greater value on experience in some of the less obviously operational functions. By doing all that, we’ll create more rounded leaders and more diverse Boards.How can the sector #EmbraceEquity?
There needs to be a continuous focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity within hospitality. I think we are already doing well as a sector, and we have a long tradition of providing opportunities and safe spaces for everyone, but there is always more that can be done.
As a collaborative sector already, it’s important that we collectively work together to share advice, guidance and policies to promote genuine inclusivity, accessible employment for all and conditions that allow people to bring the best version of themselves to work.
Melissa Wisdom, Stonegate Group
Sales and marketing directorBest advice you’ve received
Two pieces of advice have always stuck with me;
The first was some brilliant career advice to continuously push myself out of my comfort zone and experience as many diverse/broad opportunities as possible. That is only possible if you truly believe in yourself and your capabilities, you can achieve more than you think.
The second was to focus on EQ as much as IQ as a leader, people remember how you made them feel more times than they will remember what you did.Best advice you’ve given
When thinking about your own career or development; spend even more time focusing on your strengths than your ‘even better if’s’. Knowing your strengths and valuing those is both empowering and will bring huge value to the team/business you are working in. Not everyone needs to be the same, in fact, diverse teams are the best teams!What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
The economic climate is certainly creating both challenges and opportunities for our sector. Guest behaviour trends continue to evolve and expectations are higher than ever – having the privilege of leading the development of our brands and propositions in the current context means we continually create opportunities through listening to our guests, innovating, bringing creativity and raising the bar. It is one of the most challenging environments I have worked in but that makes the outcome even more rewarding.Have things changed for women in the sector since you began your career?
I have been extremely fortunate to have a varied career across retail, brand owners/suppliers as well as in the hospitality sector. Having been in the sector itself a relatively short time, I would say we have so far to travel together in order to truly be a sector that facilitates brilliant talent, from all backgrounds, fulfilling their potential.What are the barriers that are still to be overcome and how could this be tackled?
Our sector creates togetherness and memories for all of the guests we serve. I cannot think of a more energising and fun industry! I firmly believe there are no insurmountable barriers in ensuring our sector is a highly attractive place to build a career, irrespective of who you are. Speaking to the issue of gender equality specifically I think the perception of long hours, time away from the home and the ability to balance a family and career is a key issue in women remaining in the sector in more senior roles.
One of the reasons I joined Stonegate Group was because of our approach to creating a truly inclusive environment, through action. Our Female Mentoring Scheme, learning and development programs and ‘Bar to Boardroom’ culture are all great enablers to everyone curating their own career and have created so many visible examples within the company that the sky is the limit if you have the drive and ability. As a Board member, who is also mum to a 2 year old, I know first-hand that it is truly possible to have a brilliant career in this sector and raise a family.How can the sector #EmbraceEquity?
More allyship and awareness, ultimately actions and not words will make all the difference.
Helen Charlesworth, Stonegate GroupJob title
Managing directorContribution statement
“To deliver the best results through the best people in a fun and engaging way”Best advice you’ve received? / Best advice you’ve given?
The best advice I have ever received is the same advice I always give and that is, “To be yourself and more of yourself”…….be proud of who you are and stand tall.What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
I think the biggest challenges are recent and specifically how Covid impacted hospitality, the pandemic presented itself with opportunities to learn, grow and look after people whilst attempting to look after the business, which was challenging at times. I feel like Stonegate as a business and me as an individual, achieved the right balance.Have things changed for women in the sector since you began your career?
I think things have changed for women in the sector and for the better! There is a sense of positive momentum around equality in the workplace. I think there is more we could do around D&I, and I think people are actively now discussing, embracing and working out of ways they can make positive changes, which everyone will benefit from.How can the sector #EmbraceEquality? / What are the barriers that are still to be overcome and how could this be tackled?
In my view there is no better sector to lead the way on breaking down barriers than hospitality. We welcome a diverse and inclusive guest spectrum and therefore there should be no reason to not employ a representative work force. Hospitality culture is fun, energetic and a sector that holds very little barriers to entry therefore, the potential that could be explored through breaking down further barriers and allowing people to be the best version of themselves, is very exciting.
Michelle Booth, Professional SecurityJob title
Head of Solutions – Professional SecurityBest advice you’ve received
The best advice that I have been given it that it ‘If is meant to be, then it’s up to me’. This advice has been such a contributing factor to the progression I have currently made within the industry, holding myself accountable for my actions and striving to be the best version of myself both in a personal and professional setting.Best advice you’ve given
The security industry is extremely fast-paced and there will always be challenges along the way – some that will be more difficult to overcome than others. The growing trend for equality in the workplace and in the security industry as a whole is providing women with more opportunity to excel in the sector, but it’s important to be your authentic self, speak up, remain confident in your ability and don’t allow your voice to be drowned out.What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
One of the biggest challenges I have faced in other environments is garnering support from other women. Here at Professional Security the women in the senior leadership team and throughout the business support each other day to day as well as through our mentoring scheme. My advice to women is to support and empower each other.Have things changed for women in the sector since you began your career?
Working within the Solutions Zone at Professional Security allows me to see how many females are being deployed and I have certainly seen an increase in the number of clients requesting female officers for venues or specific events. An example of this was for the Commonwealth Games where we needed to supply a percentage of staff that were female.What are the barriers that are still to be overcome and how could this be tackled?
I think there is still an unconscious bias that women are not as strong or could not handle themselves as well as men when it comes to the Door Supervisor/Security Guard role. The idea that physical strength supersedes the ability to diffuse a situation is now an antiquated view. Some of the most successful teams are a diverse mix of people and those clients who recognise that and demand that do reap the benefits.How can the sector #EmbraceEquity?
Shouting about our successes and recognising those for going above and beyond in their roles particularly in frontline security. Only by sharing our successes can we ensure that the message is heard. Improving equity requires acknowledgement of the inequities people face and actively working to redress that imbalance through communication and reinforcement of positive messaging.
Demelza Staples, Professional SecurityJob title
Process and transformation director Best advice you’ve received
I was advised to seek a mentor early in my career and my mentors have been invaluable to me over the last 20 years in the industry. It’s important to actively develop both your personal and professional networks as they can be valuable sounding boards for career advice and your personal growth.Best advice you’ve given
There are lots of industries where women may feel that it is still a male dominated environment. My advice is always to be yourself and don’t be put off, be bold, be confident. Women can offer valuable perspectives and approaches to the ideation process that can result in more innovative solutions to complex problems, so don’t hold back or let imposter syndrome creep in.What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Learning to be strict with work-life balance over the years has been a challenge. I think like me, most modern women will struggle to strike a happy medium between their job and personal life. Many working mums sacrifice their family life and free time in order to meet work demands, prove themselves at work, and succeed.Have things changed for women in the sector since you began your career?
Several years ago, the percentage of women in the security industry was virtually non-existent. More recently, women have actively positioned themselves for growth within the industry and consequently the number of women in security is rapidly increasing in the workforce. In regard to the frontline, people have certainly begun to recognise the value of female door supervisors and how they bring a different point of view and skillset to the role. They are often calming influences and for us here at Professional Security, it is important to us that our workforce is as diverse and representative as the customers that we serve.What are the barriers that are still to be overcome and how could this be tackled?
Regardless of the increasing numbers of women within the sector, it currently is still a male dominated environment and there is somewhat still a stigma present which can be off putting for women considering a career in security. The stigma needs to change and the sector needs to invest time in focusing a spotlight on the amazing progression stories of women who have been successful to make it a more attractive career path, as well as educate people on the core skills that women bring to the frontline including communication, de-escalation and observation.How can the sector #EmbraceEquity?
We have a duty to promote all of the roles that we have available to all genders, but in particular we have a duty to tell the stories of great women in the industry and how they have developed and successfully progressed in their roles, to help change peoples perceptions. Telling these stories will help to break down unconscious bias.
Claire Hodder, Heineken and Star Pubs & BarsJob title
Corporate estate managerBest advice you’ve ever received:
Trust your instincts and have confidence in yourself. This was great advice when I was starting out in property 20 years ago and still holds true today.Best advice you’ve ever given
I always tell those embarking out on their careers that ‘you can only do your best’. Nobody is perfect, and there’s nothing wrong with making mistakes if you’re prepared to recognise and learn from them. Sometimes making a mistake actually throws up an alternative and better outcome.
I’m hot on integrity – if something makes you feel uncomfortable, you shouldn’t do it.What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Forging a career in property was challenging when I started out 20 years ago, as there were very few women in the industry. Without shared interests with male colleagues such as football or golf, it was harder for women to find common ground, bond and progress. You really had to prove yourself to win trust in your abilities and move up.
Thankfully times have changed in the property world since then and many more women are coming into the profession. There’s still work to do though. It’s one reason I’m an ambassador for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, visiting schools and colleges to promote chartered surveying as a career. If girls see a woman doing a job, they’re more likely to think they can do it, too.Have things changed for women in the pub sector since you began your career?
I’ve only worked in the pub industry for seven years but in that time the representation of women at a senior level has dramatically increased. At Star, for example, we’ve now got women in senior roles right across the business, from legal and compliance to operations and marketing, and they’re well represented on its Leadership Team, too.
“Star – like other companies – has also created more flexible ways of working, enabling women with family commitments to progress unimpeded whilst maintaining a work/life balance. Increasing numbers of colleagues have non-working days or work compacted hours. Hopefully these practices will soon become the norm across the licensed trade, as it can only benefit women, who still tend to shoulder much of the responsibility for caring for family members.What are the barriers that are still to be overcome and how could this be tackled?
I truly believe that being a woman is now no barrier to success in the pub industry. It's your ability to deliver and build a team as well as your ambition, flexibility and tenacity that determine how far you go.How can the sector #EmbraceEquity?
The industry is taking all the right steps and needs to continue on this path.
Pubs are now seen as a business opportunity, rather than as simply a life-style choice. The professionalisation of the industry is attracting a much broader range of talent, fostering inclusivity, respect and support for people from other backgrounds within the sector. Diversity amongst licensees and within pub companies is vital to keeping pubs relevant and thriving. The broader the perspective of those running pubs, the better they can understand and represent the differing needs of customers.