Where are the women?
22nd June 2012
Earlier this week I was a guest of Brian Wisdom’s at The Women 1st Top 100 Club and Shine Awards 2012 dinner (which is actually the top 130 club now as another 30 joined this week).
I am very fortunate to be on the list with such fabulous women as Angela Hartnett, Delia Smith, Helene Darroze, Julia Hands and Sara Jayne Stanes – it feels an honour to be included in that group of outstanding women. Lots of wonderful women were at the dinner including teams from Mitchells & Butlers, Whitbread and Spirit.
The top 130 list included three female pub and bar operators – Jillian Maclean, Lynne D’Arcy and Jackie Cupper – whilst restaurant operators included Helen Jones, Jill Stein, Juliet Joffe, Ruth Rogers and Jill McDonald. It has to be said, though, that were lots of women there in other roles from our sector, including HR, Finance and IT, which was hugely encouraging. It was a great evening.
The M&C Report Diary, I read, was intrigued to hear that the Awards were arranged on the evening of England’s crunch match against Ukraine. For those that missed it, It stated: “As an enlightened chap, Diary wouldn’t dare suggest that only a bunch of women would organise an awards ceremony to coincide with the national football team’s finest hour for several years. Diary’s female spy spotted a few token men in the hall, checking their iPhones every few minutes.” Stereotyping just a bit here guys?! I think so. If Diary was a bit more observant it would have seen Brigid Simmonds, amongst many women, also checking their phones for the score!
Four of my team also attended the Women 1st conference during the day and found it a truly uplifting and engaging experience with workshops, presentations and interactive sessions tailored to women. Women 1st are involved in training, mentoring and helping women to lead in order to fulfil their career aspirations and any operator, wanting to bring out the best in their female employees, should be involved.
The Women’s Foodservice forum in the US, strongly supported by the wonderful Tony Hughes, is another great example of women mentoring women. So with all this help why aren’t there more women running pub or restaurant groups? Where they are involved like Becky Salisbury, Jo Clevely, Jo Drain, Jo Cumming, Jo Eames or Karen Jones, they seem to bring a different dimension to how those pub companies operate. They seem to understand the female take on pub and restaurant life. Just look at their pubs – female-friendly, warm and welcoming.
Mitchells & Butlers, when they had a number of female operators, also seemed to ‘get it’. I once ran a research programme for a client who wanted to understand what women wanted in pubs – and I can understand why they wanted to do it. After our research presentation, they changed an awful lot in terms of their interior décor, their ambiance, food presentation, menu copy and their hospitality. As a result they saw double digit like-for-like sales growth. I suspect those pub and restaurant companies who have women directors in their top jobs don’t need to commission that type of research, they just instinctively know.
I don’t honestly know why more women don’t run pub groups. It’s a hard job if you have children (and you do need a ‘wife’ at home) but then that’s the same for any sector. It’s long hours – ditto. It’s male dominated – but that applies to many other sectors too. You need strong leadership and emotional intelligence skills, which I think women have in spades. Perhaps more role models and female mentors will help but I suspect it might be a bit of a long, hard slog.