Why flexibility is essential for women creating a career in hospitality

08 March 2024
Why flexibility is essential for women creating a career in hospitality

Achieving a satisfying career shouldn't come at the expense of your personal life, and doing so is becoming easier, says Laura Cherrington

As the third-largest private sector in the UK, hospitality and tourism has seen a rise in women entering the industry in recent years and they currently make up around 53.7% of the workforce, according to the latest research.

While this is a positive improvement, there are still areas that require attention to ensure women feel they can strive for leadership roles. With this year's International Women's Day themed around ‘inspiring inclusion', it is important to look at the hospitality industry as a whole, and how it has developed over the years to encourage women to aim high.

As the proud director of sales and marketing at Billesley Manor hotel in Stratford-Upon-Avon, I have experienced many of the same challenges (and successes) other women in similar positions have faced to get to where they are today.

Despite an aspiration to pursue acting at an early age, I found myself drawn to the industry with my first role as a receptionist, before quickly rising to supervisor. Following the arrival of my first daughter, I swiftly returned to hospitality where I explored a reservationist role before finding my love for weddings and events. It was in orchestrating couples' dream days that I found joy – there's something magical about being part of such a significant moment in people's lives. After being a wedding co-ordinator for many years, I then took another break to have my second child.

Again returning to hospitality, I was given the opportunity to work as a sales manager, where I played a key role in helping the hotel I worked with at the time to win ‘Hotel of the Year' in 2018. This was a huge achievement that I wouldn't have gained without the opportunities provided by the industry.

Throughout my career, I've been driven by a desire to be proactive and to build and nurture relationships. The progression opportunities in this industry are endless, rewarding those who dare to climb the ladder and gain knowledge along the way. For me, the continuous growth opportunities have been both fulfilling and rewarding.

In my role as a leader, I thrive on the dynamic nature of each day and diverse challenges it brings. As a natural people person, the opportunity to connect with colleagues, clients and guests fuels my passion for leadership. Despite this, being a female business leader in hospitality hasn't been without its challenges. While my immediate peers are predominantly women, achieving fair pay and recognition has been an ongoing journey. However, I find solace in my achievements, relying on the facts and figures to reaffirm my worth in a male leadership-dominated industry. Balancing the responsibilities of leadership with those of a wife and mother has taught me resilience and strength that I never knew I possessed.

When I reflect on the inclusivity of the industry when I first joined, I can't help but acknowledge the progress we've made. While there's still work to be done, the presence of more female general managers is a testament to that change. Yet, as long as gender equality remains a topic of discussion, there's always room for improvement.

To any woman considering a career in hospitality, I offer this advice: set your goals high and break them down into achievable steps. The flexibility of this industry allows you to pursue your ambitions while maintaining a fulfilling personal life. And for those striving for leadership positions, remember to earn respect through hard work and dedication – never shy away from getting your hands dirty.

As the industry marks International Women's Day, I'm reminded of the countless women who paved the way for me and the responsibility I bear to inspire those who will follow. Together, we'll continue to challenge norms, break barriers and carve out a future where women in hospitality thrive.

Laura Cherrington is the director of sales and marketing at Billesley Manor Hotel & Spa

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