Hi Caroline, to start with, can you tell us about your journey in hospitality?
I started out by taking a Health and Fitness Management course at college, whilst helping out at a leisure centre as a lifeguard. I worked my way up into management roles there, before being approached to work here at The Runnymede. Instantly I fell in love with the place and the atmosphere, and so I began my journey at The Runnymede as Fitness Manager, 23 years ago! Since then I wanted to take on more responsibilities so I would help the Spa Manager out with day-to-day operations which I really enjoyed. Eventually I became Deputy Spa Manager and then when the job was available, I became Spa Manager. But as well as this, I’ve done some duty management within the main hotel too – elements of which I have brought back into my current role at the spa.
What would you say has inspired you to get where you are today?
I would say it’s the managers that I’ve had and the faith that they’ve had in me. I think sometimes I didn’t have that faith in myself so knowing that they supported me and wanted to send me on training courses really helped. I feel like I’ve progressed so much since I’ve been here and that’s because of them. Also, seeing my team around me progress has been really inspirational. For example, we’ve taken on people without qualifications and have seen them do really well and often reach management roles, which I think is pretty amazing.
What advice would you share with women who are at the start of their hospitality careers and aspire to reach a senior position?
I think I’ve been very lucky in my career in that I don’t feel that anything has been put in my way because I am female. I look back and think, have I missed out on opportunities because of my gender? I don’t think I have. But I think in terms of advice I would just say to be yourself. Don’t feel that you have to be something else. Have confidence in yourself and your abilities and that will shine through. And work hard – the hours in hospitality aren’t sociable but if you understand and embrace that, you’ll do well and very likely reach the position you want.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I love the fact that it’s different every day. We’ve got such a variety of guests coming in, whether they’re loyal customers or new members. I also love working with my team. I enjoy helping them to develop and seeing them grow in their role, and hearing the feedback they receive from guests is lovely.
What has you most excited about the future of women in hospitality?
Like I said before, I feel very grateful for the success that I have had in this company and I believe there are a lot of roles for women in hospitality. I don’t think there are any barriers,there’s a place for everyone. Although it’s hard work and long hours at times, I think there is so much to gain from working in the industry and I think it’s as much for women as it is for men. A lot of the senior roles in The Runnymede are filled by women, so that’s very telling of the situation and the future of women in hospitality.
Who is your female role model?
That’s a tricky one! I feel like I should be giving you the name of a powerful businesswoman or something but I won’t be cliché. For me it’s the great female managers that I’ve had throughout my career. They’ve all had an incredible work ethic and I’ve tried to adopt their traits and absorb their great management techniques.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of female leaders?
I think ultimately the world is changing and I do truly believe that gender is not seen as such a divide anymore, at least not in hospitality, but it will always depend on what the senior management of any company is like. I believe it’s important to consider the work culture and diversity of any company you’re looking to join, because if it’s not quite right, it will take years for that culture to change and it will inevitably be a challenge. Thankfully, I’ve never felt that here at The Runnymede but unfortunately I do think the male-female divide still exists in other industries.
What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
I would honestly tell myself to do exactly the same. Pick the same career and venture down that same path. I worked my way up from the bottom and I think that gave me really good grounding. I didn’t expect things to just fall into my lap and that gave me a strong motivation to work hard. So in terms of advice, I would say to continue working hard, and if you prove that you can do more than your job, you’ll be noticed and rewarded. Having said that, I think I would also tell myself to be more confident in my ability and truly believe in myself!