Hospitality is powered by people – millions of individuals across the world working together to help guests to escape, rest, connect, and explore.  

A huge percentage of this global hospitality workforce is made up of women who are continuously increasing their influence and opportunities within hotels, F&B, leisure and beyond. In the UK, accommodation and food services is one of the top five sectors with the most women in employment, providing a better foundation than many industries for gender equality in the workplace.  

However, while representation of women at the top levels of hospitality leadership continues to increase – with many hotel companies achieving a 1:1 balance between men and women at director level in recent years – there is still work to do across the industry to achieve parity in positions higher than this.  

We are proud that many of the leadership positions within Focus Hotels are held by talented and dedicated women, with our executive team made up of an equal balance of women and men at the helm. Inspired by the official theme of International Women’s Day 2024, we spoke to the following members of the Focus team to explore their experience as women in hospitality and how the industry can continue to diversify and #InspireInclusion in its workforce: 

  • Sarah Monk, Commercial Director (SM) 
  • Lara Beechey, Operations Director (LB)
  • Niki Ball, Human Resources Director (NB)
  • Kate Jeffries, Hotel General Manager (KJ)
  • Rukhsana Hassam, Deputy Hotel General Manager (RH)
  • Elena Fenton, Hotel Operations Manager (EF)
  • Trish Tweedie, Senior Central Revenue Manager (TT)
  • Viktorija Rubine, Hotel Maintenance Worker (VR) 

 


 

Jump to: 

How have you been supported as a woman in the hospitality industry? 

Do you have any stories of women in the hospitality industry who have inspired or mentored you?

How do you think women are challenging stereotypical gender roles in the hospitality industry?

How can hospitality organisations inspire inclusion and create more opportunities for women to progress?

What advice would you give to women starting out in hospitality?

 


 

How have you been supported as a woman in the hospitality industry?  

RH: “I’ve had supportive mentors and colleagues who have championed my growth and development in the hospitality industry. From them, I learned that it’s important not to wait for opportunities to come to you; you have to actively fight for what you want.” 

EF: “I’ve been fortunate to find managers who understand my situation and personal circumstances. Whenever I needed to leave early to pick up my daughter or take a day off because she was sick, they were accommodating. Balancing motherhood and work hasn’t been easy, but it’s definitely possible with the right support.” 

VR: “I’ve had the opportunity to work in various departments of the hotel, exploring different areas until I discovered my passion for maintenance and a position was created for me in this field. As a woman, I’m not sure I would have found this career path without the encouragement to explore every aspect of the industry.” 

 

“I learned that it’s important not to wait for opportunities to come to you; you have to actively fight for what you want.” 

 

Do you have any stories of women in the hospitality industry who have inspired or mentored you?   

SM: “When I served as Reception Manager at a large hotel in Chester, we had an exceptional Director of Sales – Marie Hall. Despite juggling a full-time workload and raising teenage children, Marie approached her responsibilities with enthusiasm and joy; her love for her job was palpable and contagious. She definitely inspired my transition into proactive sales.”  

KJ: “During my very first role as a teenager in North Wales, I worked under the guidance of a strong, professional woman who ignited my passion for hospitality. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside many amazing women, all of whom have guided my career. My family support was also incredible – I grew up surrounded by accomplished and encouraging women and men which definitely shaped my behaviours. I am incredibly grateful to all of them.” 

TT: “I worked with a General Manager who insisted on having a glass office in the reception area of every hotel she worked in. She aimed to make herself visible to everyone, signalling that anyone was welcome to speak with her about anything. This served as a perfect example of leadership. Her genuine care for both her staff and the guests was evident in all her scorecards – consistently ranking at the top of the class every time. She was a true inspiration.” 

 

“Women are challenging stereotypes by demonstrating their competence and leadership across all areas of hospitality. They’re redefining the skillset required for success and advocating for a more equitable industry.”

 

 

How do you think women are challenging stereotypical gender roles in the hospitality industry? 

NB: “Women leaders are paving the way for others by mentoring younger women and advocating for fair treatment and opportunities within the industry. They’re working to dismantle the systems that perpetuate stereotypes and create a more inclusive space. Overall, women are challenging stereotypes by demonstrating their competence and leadership across all areas of hospitality. They’re redefining the skillset required for success and advocating for a more equitable industry. This is not just good for women; it strengthens the hospitality industry by drawing on a wider talent pool and fostering a more diverse and innovative environment.” 

VR: “It’s often difficult as a female maintenance worker, as guests typically expect a man to handle maintenance issues, but I’ve experienced nothing but a strong commitment to equality in the workplace and received brilliant support from my employer.” 

RH: “Women in the hospitality industry are challenging stereotypical gender roles by excelling in all areas of the field, from culinary arts to management to entrepreneurship. Their success and leadership demonstrate that gender is not a barrier to achievement and inspire future generations of women to pursue their passions and aspirations without limitations.” 

TT: “I remember challenging an old General Manager about salary discrepancies and questioning why I was being paid differently than a male colleague who held the exact same role of Duty Manager. His response, which is important to note was from a male perspective, was, ‘Surely you don’t expect to be paid the same… you’re a woman.’ Thankfully, so much has changed since then.” 

SM: “We are very fortunate that stereotypical gender roles have been changing for the last 20 years.  When I was new to the industry, female business leaders were very few and far between. Now, I know many inspirational female general managers, operations managers and heads of department out there. We need to continue to invest in our female colleagues, and ensure they too have the tools to develop their careers.” 

 

“Inclusion is about really listening and embracing different ideas, experiences and perspectives, then considering all of these when making decisions that will shape the future of the company.”

 

How can hospitality organisations inspire inclusion and create more opportunities for women to progress? 

LB: “From my point of view, inclusion is about really listening and embracing different ideas, experiences and perspectives, then considering all of these when making decisions that will shape the future of the company.” 

RH: “I inspire inclusion in my workforce by fostering a culture of respect, open communication, and collaboration. Hotels can create more opportunities for women to progress by offering leadership development programs specifically for women, promoting diversity in hiring and promotion practices, and actively supporting women’s career advancement through mentorship and sponsorship programs.” 

KJ: “Our industry can foster inclusion through mentoring programs, offering flexible work arrangements to accommodate childcare needs, implementing menopause policies, embodying fairness and inclusivity in leadership practices, recognising and celebrating exceptional performance, and actively addressing and challenging inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. 

NB: “Addressing work-life balance and promoting career development and inclusivity within hospitality organisations is crucial. This can be achieved through offering flexible work arrangements such as part-time work and remote options, implementing generous parental leave policies, and establishing mentorship and sponsorship programs. Additionally, providing targeted training programs and individual career development plans for women, along with initiatives like unconscious bias training and zero-tolerance policies for harassment and discrimination, fosters an inclusive culture. These measures empower women to thrive and succeed in the industry.” 

 

 

Women entering the hospitality industry should focus on continuous learning, networking, and finding mentors who can provide guidance and support.”

 

What advice would you give to women starting out in hospitality? 

KJ: “I believe I have achieved success in my career through hard work, determination, and a passion for success. With these qualities, one should be able to thrive in the industry. I found it important to communicate my career goals and actively steer my path to learn all aspects of the industry.” 

NB: “The hospitality industry thrives on diversity, and your skills and experiences enrich the environment for both guests and colleagues. Embrace your strengths, navigate challenges assertively, and continuously seek opportunities for growth and professional development. You have the potential to achieve remarkable success in this dynamic and rewarding field.” 

EF: “Always be you and set clear, smart and achievable objectives to allow you to grow in whichever career you choose.” 

SM: “Be as honest with your employer or line manager as possible. If your work/life balance feels out of kilter, please don’t leave the industry – explain how you feel. There are hundreds of flexible contracts in our industry, making it perfect for many who need that ability to adapt.” 

LB: “Determination, resilience, and hard work will support your progression. Speaking from experience, as a mother of three children and someone who loves work, your work/life balance will often require a lot of juggling, but developing a routine and a structure that works for you will make all the difference.” 

RH: “Women entering the hospitality industry should focus on continuous learning, networking, and finding mentors who can provide guidance and support. It’s important to prioritise self-care, set boundaries, and advocate for equal opportunities and recognition in the workplace. Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to challenge.”  

 

Embrace your strengths, navigate challenges assertively, and continuously seek opportunities for growth and professional development. You have the potential to achieve remarkable success in this dynamic and rewarding field.”

 


 

A huge thank you to all the incredible women who contributed to this article. For further information and resources on International Women’s Day 2024, visit www.internationalwomensday.com or explore this year’s theme of ‘Inspire Inclusion’ here. 

 

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