Sodexo has no shortage of skilled and talented women amongst their ranks. In fact, the “quality of life services” provider can boast a healthy 50/50 gender balance at board level.
Open conversation about diversity and inclusion are actively encouraged within Sodexo’s employee networks, with one network in particular - ‘Women Work’ – focusing on gender equality. Here we spoke to three members of the network (who just so happen to be women excelling in their careers…) to learn a little more about how they got ahead and how Sodexo has supported them at work.
AMANDA COX | Assistant Account Director, Emirates Airline Lounge
Amanda oversees 130 employees provide catering, hospitality and facilities management at four Emirates lounges in Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow airports
Amanda, 28, has made fast progress during her hospitality career, which started when she took a part-time job at the Madjeski Stadium while studying at university.
‘From a young age I knew I wanted to push myself and be ambitious, even though I didn’t know what I wanted to do,’ said Amanda. ‘My parents worked hard and instilled a strong work ethic in me, and the more you contribute the more it will pay off.’
‘When I started working at the stadium it really suited my flair for interacting with people in a customer-facing role. I really enjoy putting myself out of my comfort zone and getting results.’
Amanda joined Sodexo in 2013 as a services manager for the company’s new contract with the Emirates Aviation Experience in London. She took the responsibility of managing a 35-strong team in her stride.
‘At 25 I was the youngest in the team, a woman and the boss. I can see how some women might find that daunting, but I took the opportunity with both hands and had a very positive experience.
‘Sodexo hold gender parity in high regard. They’re of the opinion gender balanced teams will deliver because it allows diversity and different skills to come to the best decisions.
‘All my team can contribute regardless of their role or their background. It’s important we use each other’s strengths to get the best results.’
GEMMA AMOR | Executive Chef, Ascot Racecourse
‘I always wanted to be a chef,’ says Gemma. ‘I come from a big family and being the eldest of seven I was always helping my mum at mealtime.’
Immediately drawn to art and cooking at school, Gemma’s first experience of the workplace was in a department store restaurant at 14 years old. She joined Sodexo 20 years ago after a successful college placement.
‘My first role was working as commis chef at the members' restaurants at various racecourses across the south of the UK. ‘I worked in the role for a year before I progressed to chef de partie, then to head chef, and then last year I was promoted executive chef. This was all down to the support and investment from Sodexo.’
Having worked at every Royal Ascot for 20 years and alongside Michelin-star chefs who have helped her develop her skills, Gemma is determined to challenge negative perceptions of contract catering.
‘I would like to change people's mind-sets with regard to how they stereotype contract catering as being based on high-volume, low-quality menus and ingredients.The contract catering industry has seen a huge step change in recent years, with innovation and quality at the forefront of menu design and concepts that we deliver across our retail, fine dining and conference banqueting businesses.’
Last year Gemma’s dedication was rewarded with the Chef Award at the Cost Sector Catering Awards and a place on the shortlist of Chef of the Year in the Foodservice Cateys.
LAURA STEEL | General Manager, Tyne and Wear Museum and Archives
Laura started in hospitality aged 16 as a matchday waitress at Newcastle United Football Club’s at St James’ Park. While taking A-levels, Laura did more events and became manager of the largest hospitality room, for up to 500 delegates.
Laura went to Northumbria University to take a BSc in Criminology, then a MSc in Homeland Security while working full time.
‘Criminology was what I wanted to go into growing up, but when I started catering at 16 I fell in love with it and I’ve kept developing,’ said Laura.
In 2011, Laura became assistant manager for Sodexo at the Great North Museum: Hancock, Discovery Museum, Laing Art Gallery and City Library. Then, nine months after finishing her masters, Laura was promoted to general manager with overall responsibility for 50 employees.
Laura said: ‘If you look at Sodexo you’ve got women throughout. I do look at women higher up in the company and think ‘if they can do succeed so can I’.
Six months ago Laura’s commitment to supporting women went beyond Sodexo. She joined Soroptimist International (SI) – a global volunteering movement which aims to transform the lives of women and girls - getting involved with a variety of programmes, from preparing ‘new start bags’ for women who have suffered domestic violence to sponsoring a girl in Nepal through education for the next five years
‘I wanted to get into something where I could help the community and help other women, and something I could fit around work,’ said Laura. ‘I’m meeting women who are inspirational and successful. You don’t see it directly but you know you’re making a positive impact.’