Are women in hospitality set-up for failure?

What do you do when you realise desk life isn’t for you? Rachel sold her car, packed up her life in Wisconsin and moved to New Zealand. Now in her thirteenth year in the hospitality industry, Rachel has a wealth of expertise and experience in hospitality management and has had some incredible people support her along the way.

After some time in New Zealand, Rachel moved to Melbourne and within six months her talent in hospitality was realised – she was sponsored and working as an assistant venue manager of the Crafty Squire.

Rachel’s first mentor was not her ‘mentor’. She tells us more about her experience:

I had some incredible managers at my first gig in Australia, in particular, Joe Baily and Jeremy Ferguson. They taught me everything from the importance of condiment caddies being full, to understanding labour costs, balancing budgets and how to manage misbehaving patrons.

Jeremy is a manager that pushes you to think for yourself – he asks questions like, what are you doing and why are you doing it? I appreciate this approach. I’m a firm believer that you learn more through experience, by exploring and doing, yourself. Essentially it’s problem-solving, and in hospitality, there are many to solve.

Of course, now, I’d call him my biggest and most helpful mentor.

“But I had no idea how much I was learning, until I stepped up and took on my first venue.”

Solidifying knowledge, abolishing doubt.

Opening my first venue was intense, I was so overwhelmed. Just three days away from opening, we were without menus or tills and three days in, problems were piling up. People were looking to me for answers, I just didn’t have.

So I called Jeremy, almost in tears.

He said, “Write your list, you know what you’re doing” …and hung up.

In that moment, I didn’t have time to pity my situation – he knew that and I knew that – I didn’t need to be babied, I just needed to be reassured. I had what I needed to power through. It was the reminder I needed in that moment and it surfaced the confidence that I knew I already had.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. He taught me to manage, to see, to problem solve, to deal with stress. He taught me so much in the time we worked together that I didn’t even know I was learning most of the time.

At Mentorloop it’s truly a privilege to learn about all the styles of mentoring relationships that exist. Some are nurturing, some are ‘old-school’, some are in a group setting. They all have one thing in common though – they understand the real reason why the connection exists and it propels them forward.  

One of the most important things I learned from Jeremy, was how to manage as a female manager – which may seem strange coming from a very direct, and well-respected, man.

Jeremy never made exceptions for me, he didn’t take it easy on me, but he constantly pushed. I was expected to do a keg shift in December with 160 kegs coming on a Wednesday morning at 7 am because that’s what an assistant venue manager does. I was expected to know every AFL game on Saturday. I was expected to be respected by casual staff and taken seriously, so I was.

“Jeremy never made excuses for me, so I didn’t make them for myself either. I took myself as seriously as anyone else in the job and I think that’s why I excelled so quickly.”

I went on to work under a female area manager, Lia, who was amazing and who really believed in me. I learned so much from Lia who was a strong female figure in which I always looked up to.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a ‘Lia’ to support every woman in hospitality though. 

After a little over a year of working with Lia, I moved back into Jeremy’s patch as Venue Manager.

Today, I continue to be challenged, pushed and to excel. He constantly challenges me to do better, and only expects the best. He’s someone that I have great respect for and can always reach out to for help.

Challenges for women in hospitality are unique, and they exist.

It’s daily. The challenges for women in hospitality are daily. But you get through it.

The first wake up call I had was when I was 18 yrs old in Wisconsin, bartending in a gaming venue. One evening I was retrieving a patron’s winnings from out the back and upon my return he said, – “I want to see your manager, now. I don’t believe women should handle money” – I was stunned. I thought, what year is it?? If this is still happening, boy am I in for a ride…

And it did continue on from there – you could be changing out kegs in an alley and a man will approach you, or you’ll receive a comment from a patron like ‘hey, do you even know how to change that gas bottle?’ – or responding to the usual, ‘I want to speak to the manager,’ when you are the manager – and you contemplate pulling in your junior male manager just to appease them.

This might seem to be everyday sexism, amplified by the hospitality setting – but it goes far beyond everyday trading.

It disconcerts women from seeking leadership and Australian Venue Co understand this. They want to see the confidence and passion Rachel has instilled in all of their staff.  

Australian Venue Co noticed that only 23% of their Senior Venue Managers are female and they are completely committed to seeing this change for the better. In addition to other efforts, this year they launch their AdVanCe Mentoring Programs in partnership with Mentorloop. Their focus is on talent development through mentoring, and striving towards ambitious gender and identity goals by 2020.

Providing a connection platform for people in all communities to connect across the company, is at the heart of their efforts.

I think to some degree, women are underestimated. Women aren’t always as vocal about what they want or as bullish. In my earlier days, I didn’t ask to manage a venue, I was waiting to be asked to run a venue. I often see women getting pushed aside for opportunities because ‘they’re too quiet’ but I believe we have to instead pause and ask: Why? Why is she quiet?

Men are conditioned to be more confident in their abilities. And so I am very excited for this program to help women in our organisation find their voice and confidence, which is naturally instilled in men.

That’s why I think this program will be amazing.
I don’t think there’s a ceiling point for people needing mentoring. 

So, are women destined for failure in the hospitality industry? With women as passionate and driven as Rachel? Absolutely not.

Would you like to start a culture of mentoring in your organisation? Why not have a chat with one of our friendly mentoring specialists, today!

Start a culture of mentoring today

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Em is our Marketing Manager at Mentorloop. That's a lot of 'm's! | She is passionate about crafting messages, crafternoons and craft beer.

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