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Celebrating International Women’s Day: Discover the Journey of Female Business Leaders in Hospitality

By Laura Cherrington, Director of Sales and Marketing at Billesley Manor Hotel and Spa (

Sitting as the third largest private sector in the UK, over recent years, the hospitality and tourism industry has seen a rise of women in the workforce – sitting at 53.7% according to latest 2024 research.

Despite positive improvement, there are still areas that require attention to ensure that women feel they can strive for leadership roles. With this year’s theme of International Women’s Day being to ‘Inspire Inclusion’, it is important to look at the hospitality industry as a whole, and how this has developed over the years to encourage women to aim high.

As the Director of Sales and Marketing at Billesley Manor Hotel, I’ve navigated many challenges (and successes!) that mirror the journeys that many women in similar positions had to experience 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 the 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 coordinator for many years, I then took another break to have my second child.

Again returning to hospitality, I was given the opportunity 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 long 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.

Reflecting 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.