Whilst celebrating women in the industry, it was a delight to catch up with the incredibly inspiring Stephanie Wade. As the former Director of Tennent’s Training Academy, Stephanie boasts an impressive career in hospitality. She’s now gone on to found Hub International - a business “passionate about the development of all people, all over the world."
In her spare time, Stephanie is a Trustee of Scottish Youth Charity - Project Scotland, and also owns a unique Bar & Restaurant where she supports young school leavers in taking their first steps into careers in Hospitality Management. Here’s what she had to say when we got chatting...
HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE INDUSTRY?
I’ve always loved making people happy through making and serving food and drink. I am a big feeder, whether it’s family, friends, or customers! My first job was a Kitchen Porter, washing dishes after school. I was so eager to progress, but was never allowed to come out of the kitchen in my first year. I was just thirteen! But when I was eventually allowed to serve customers, I loved the interaction so much that I just knew hospitality was the industry for me. I knew one day I’d have my own business.
I went through hospitality education courses at college and uni. I travelled and worked abroad - running a cocktail bar in a luxury resort by the age of sixteen. By twenty-two, I was a manager for a youth tour operator in Greece.
More recently, I was the Director for a hospitality education centre - which was so rewarding. The industry gave me the chance to earn, learn, and get into a management career at a young age - managing lots of other young people and dealing with many challenging situations.
I got my first Director post at the age of twenty-nine, reporting as a female CEO, which was a big achievement for me. Now, I’m the CEO of an awesome organisation that helps other businesses and other people grow and thrive!
WHAT GIVES YOU CONFIDENCE?
My team and my network mostly! When I started my own company, my team and industry friends were 100% behind me, and gave me the confidence I needed to believe I could do it. You never really know exactly what you’re good at until people tell you. It was only really when I was announcing my departure that I got amazing offers of support, help, guidance and thanks - which gave me a big boost. Not everyone is as confident as they look, including me!
But my favourite has to be when I see someone I’ve helped move into work flourishing, and that gives me the confidence to keep pushing boundaries and supporting those who can’t help themselves. So watching others gain skills and confidence - that you’ve taught them - really gives me confidence and pride too.
IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT IS THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE WOMEN CURRENTLY FACE?
I’d say equal representation in leadership positions, which is a real shame. I often find myself sat as the lone woman with a table of men and wonder why. Women have equal drive and determination to succeed, but there are unspoken attitudes and beliefs that we all have about others.
There are still perceptions of the ability women have to take on a role; depending on what time of life they’re in. Unbelievably, this is still an issue, especially for young women in leadership, who I know still get asked when they are “planning to settle down”. These women can be bypassed for promotions just because they might have kids in the future… It’s ridiculous that women are afraid to plan a family in fear of losing their career.
However, we are making improvements towards providing more flexible workplaces and parental leave policies, and there are more chances for women to get back into the workplace. But none of this will help unless attitudes change.
IF YOU ATTENDED AN INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY MARCH, WHAT WOULD YOUR SIGN SAY?
Stuff the stereotype! Change attitudes not policies.
IF YOU WERE HOSTING A DINNER PARTY, WHICH FIVE WOMEN WOULD YOU INVITE?
I should probably say Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, and some other inspirational badass bosses, but in reality I’d feel more comfortable bringing some of the awesome young people I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years and hearing their stories.
Like Monika - one of my unemployed trainees from Poland. A year on, she’s now mastered the English language and worked her way up from a KP (just like me!). She’s got her own house, her own car, and now she’s training as a teacher, and flies out to Greece next month to teach other young people! Plus, she keeps threatening to make me some traditional beetroot soup, so it’s about time we got together for dinner!
#BeBoldForChange #InternationalWomensDay #IWD2017