By Vanessa Cavasinni, editor Australian Hotelier

Among a large crowd of women from every aspect of hospitality, Solotel’s COO Justine Baker applauded the launch of Women In Hospitality (WOHO), and also discussed the need for better female representation within pubs.

At the sold-out launch, Baker and a large contingent from Solotel praised the new initative.

“It was a great event. There was so much purpose around it – it was fantastic.”

Solotel became a partner of WOHO early on after meeting with founder and chair, Julia Campbell.

“We were very excited when we got wind of what Women in Hospitality were doing because there is a huge gap in that space, no one else is doing it,” stated Marielle Hague, Solotel’s people and culture manager. “Upon meeting with Julia it was immediately obvious that our goals were aligned and we could form a strong partnership – making a difference in this space not just in Solotel, but in the industry, is something we talk about every day”.

Creating diversity and reaching gender parity is an important aim for Baker, who stated that at one stage the group’s licensees and general managers were evenly split between men and women, but that figure has slipped to 35 per cent female representation in managerial roles in the last five years – a number that is still well above industry averages.

“What we find is that it’s all about internal progression. It’s really hard to find an external recruit. You have to nurture women from a young age and show them a career path. Once they’re in it, they love it. They feel valued and respected.”

One woman who has had a stellar rise within Solotel is Amanda Verratti – last week named Publican of the Year at Time Out Sydney’s Pub Awards. Verratti moved from Melbourne and joined Solotel three years ago as a duty manager and then became an assistant manager. She was promoted to licensee of Public House Petersham when the group began trading the pub in late 2015, and has now taken on Solotel’s latest acquisition, The Marlborough Hotel in Newtown, as licensee.

“We’re so proud of her. It’s just so lovely to see her develop from someone who just had passion and curiosity into someone who is running a big business,” said Baker.

Mentoring was a large topic of discussion at the WOHO launch, and will be a large part of the membership program, which Baker sees as a huge benefit for members.

“I think that the mentoring role is really important. It’s a safe place for people to ask questions. Also just to have an external voice outside of your company to say ‘you know what, this is actually what you’re great at’ or point out things that the people that are always with you often don’t see.”

As partners of WOHO, Solotel will host the next event for the organisation in August, which will be a Q&A with Chelsea Carter and Laura Baratto, general manager and chef, respectively, of The Paddington Inn. They will be joined by Matt Moran.

Baker also thinks suppliers need to do their part to foster gender parity in the industry, citing industry networking events skewed to men, such as golf days. She suggests that these events should be more inclusive, and that suppliers should start by hiring more women themselves.

“I’m one of few females in my position in Sydney. I go to industry events and I walk in and I’m the only female, and I think ‘Why am I here?’ Things have just got to shift.”

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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