Today is International Women’s Day, which celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women around the world! Across THE PIG hotels, you’ll find many of our key PIG people are women, including two Regional Directors, three Hotel Directors, three Deputy General Managers, as well as a huge number taking senior Head of Department roles from Restaurant Managers to Head of Grounds!
Whilst we can’t spotlight them all (though we wish we could!), we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to introduce you to a few of our brilliant, influential, and inspirational women within the #PIGpeople family, and gather their thoughts on what this day means to them.
Fiona Moores – Regional Operations Director
“I chose to work in the industry after graduating with a BA in hospitality management in 1993. I’ve worked in various hotels and achieved my first General Manager position in 2002. My first hotel opening was in 2011 and my first for the PIG group in 2016, THE PIG-at Combe. I’m now Regional Operations Director for THE PIG-at Combe, THE PIG-near Bath and THE PIG-at Harlyn Bay, and a mum as well - which can be challenging juggling the two!”
Sarah Holden – Hotel Director
“Joining THE PIG hotels as a Restaurant Manager in 2013 was one of the best moves I made for my career. After 5 great years as a General Manager with Jamie Oliver, I was so nervous to make a change but almost 10 years on and now as Hotel Director at THE PIG- near Bath, I look back at that decision to leave my comfort zone and see it as a pivotal moment.”
Sophie Perry - Deputy General Manager
“I joined opening team for THE PIG-at Harlyn Bay in 2020 as Bar Manager and have since progressed to Deputy General Manager at THE PIG- at Combe. I’m also a dog mum, amateur baker and mezcal enthusiast!”
Louise Renshaw – Group Reservations Manager
“I began my journey in hospitality as a waitress in a hotel restaurant and spent almost 10 years in similar roles. I joined THE PIG group in 2016 as a Reservationist, which was a big change for me after so long in a front of house environment. Since 2016, I have completed a Hospitality Supervisor apprenticeship and in recent years progressed to the role of Reservations Manager.”
Shannon Madgwick - Reception Manager
“My career in hospitality started nearly 8 years ago at THE PIG. Initially it was a part time job whilst I was at college, but early on, I realised I had caught the bug for it. I have had some amazing opportunities over the years and worked under some incredible leaders, learning a lot along the way. I love that my job has bought me the opportunity to travel, some of my highlights being a ski season in Portetta, Courchevel and working for Sir Jim Ratcliffe on his super yacht.”
Charlotte Bonham – Head Pastry Chef
“I’ve been with the company for four years and have run the pastry section at THE PIG (in the New Forest) for the last three. When I’m not at work, I’m usually either relaxing at home with my girlfriend Emma, reading, cooking (purely for enjoyment!), or doing stuff for my teeny tiny side hustle/company, Bonham’s Bonbons.”
What does IWD mean to you?
Shannon: I think it’s important to celebrate anyone and their achievements but particularly women, as even to this day we face prejudice and setbacks. I think that 21st century women are commendable, and I am proud to be one of them.
Louise: We have come so far as a society since the days of women being unable to open their own bank accounts in the early 1970’s and not being recognised as a ‘person’ in the eyes of the law in the early 1900’s. IWD for me is a celebration of the positive changes in recent years; it is not uncommon these days to see a female Director or CEO dominating the business world, but the bigger picture is it's still a work in progress, and we are all a part of that journey.
Why do you think it is important to celebrate IWD?
Charlotte: To recognise the vital work that women from all walks of life have accomplished, whether it’s in our industry or not! We should honour women’s strength, intelligence, and power as a way of thanking the generations of women past for the sacrifices they made for us to be here today.
Sarah: Being able to see other women, living a life you want, doing a job you want, whether consciously or unconsciously, means that you realise it is possible and this opens doors you may have previously been led to believe are shut. IWD encourages an inner confidence in us all and, I hope, makes us explore ways in which we can be better at supporting one another. We are often our harshest critics and I think initiatives like this encourage us all to appreciate each other more.
How would you advise young women leaders on how to build confidence in their ability as a manager and leader?
Fiona: Once you get to this stage, you will have done a fair degree of grafting so that gives you a solid foundation, which will lead to confidence. There is no getting away from the fact that hard work is required. Then, you have your goal in mind and realise for you to get there you need to build a strong team around you. By doing this, it starts their journey but also allows you to achieve what you want - be that getting away to do the school run or get to the top of your tree. Now this is the hard one, try not have too much guilt on your shoulders, it weighs you down. You can be a successful professional, wife and mother. Be kind but understand the need for a balance of salt and sugar as a manager and leader. Once you know that you have the respect of your team that gives you confidence.
Shannon: Believe in yourself and know that your voice and opinion is as important as any other.
What initiatives should companies invest in to promote women in leadership and an inclusive workplace?
Louise: If I were to look back at my time in hospitality, every position I held was answering to a male in a higher one. I never really thought about it at the time, but perhaps subconsciously it made me feel that I could not progress, as I always saw management positions as completely out of reach. It was only when I joined THE PIG hotels that I saw how successful women could be in the industry. Companies need to show how accessible senior positions are for women so that everyone can feel that they can aim higher and make a career in hospitality. There should also be a foundation of trust in the workplace and support to give team members the confidence to raise issues without concern of prejudice, especially in male-dominated environments.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
Charlotte: I’m torn between two moments – one was competing in the Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Awards competition and making it into the Graduate Chefs Hall of Fame. Entering and excelling in the competition gave me a huge confidence boost and a real sense of achievement. The other moment was when a famous female Chef visited, and she ordered the Raspberry Bakewell Tart. She said it was the best she had ever eaten! That was surreal– the whole reason I got into cooking and baking as a child was because of her cookbooks!
Fiona: I had two years of extended maternity leave due to a prolonged hotel refurbishment and came back to my first hotel opening as General Manager when my daughter was 2 years old. It took huge grit and determination and a few tears along the way… yes mine, not the baby, although as you can imagine plenty from her too!
Name someone that has inspired you...
Shannon: I am lucky that I have been surrounded by lots of inspiring women during my career; working alongside women that are they best at what they do like: Judy Hutson, Angela Hartnett, and Regional Directors – Fiona Moores and Lora Strizic, just to name a few.
Sarah: It is no secret that I admire Angela Hartnett hugely - the definition of success in a traditionally male dominated industry. No raised voices, no screaming, but a quiet authority that I try to emulate where I can!
Louise: Kate Nicholls CBE, CEO of UKHospitality is one name that comes to mind. Her achievements and passion for the industry are inspiring for women looking to progress in hospitality. She is a fantastic example of a determined, driven woman leading the way for future generations.
Charlotte: My first Head Chef, Christina. She was amazing! She took me under her wing and pushed me to perform as well as I could whilst working with her. She would always help me when I needed it and gave me solid advice on working in kitchens, especially as a woman.
Sophie: Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand Prime Minister. At 37, she became the youngest head of government in the world and is the second elected leader in modern history to have had a baby whilst in office. Legend!
What is the most important piece of advice you have been given?
Shannon: ‘That what you do makes a difference, and you must decide what kind of difference you want to make’. I love that with my job, I can make someone’s special birthday or anniversary memorable. Or spoiling people that are not used to being spoilt!
Sarah: Ambiguity is a part of the process; don’t be afraid of it.
Charlotte: To never give up on what you want, but with that comes much hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. Mainly because it’s so true, especially for us Chefs!
Fiona: Many years ago, when I was in a middle management position my General Manager pulled me to one side and said: “you know this hotel inside out and you are a real grafter, but if you don’t get your team on board with you then your journey will be short”. It was then I started working on the sugar and salt balance and quenched some of that fiery Irishness!
And, what advice would you give your younger self?
Louise: ‘Don’t be afraid to try.’ I always had a tendency to label things as unachievable before I had even tried, because the idea of failing was worse than not trying at all. I have come to learn that if you don’t succeed, you use those experiences to develop and move forward. Failing does not set you back, the negatives are just as important as the positives.
Sophie: ‘Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind; the race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself’. I stole this from Baz Luhrmann, but I think it’s so important to remember that we are all on our own journey, and not to compare yourself.
Kitchens have a reputation of being male-dominant environments – what do you think about this?
Charlotte: Well, it is valid for a start. I think the industry has a long way to go in inspiring more young women to join professional kitchens. We need to have more representation of women in that environment in the media e.g. Professional Masterchef and Great British Menu are male dominant.
When you think of casual, primetime cooking shows designed to show you how to cook at home, who’s hosting those shows? Nigella Lawson, Mary Berry, Nadiya Hussain etc. These women are fantastic cooks, but what if there was a Hell’s Kitchen/Boiling Point type show with Angela Hartnett, Sally Abe or Nieves Barragan as the star of the show? That’s the kind of representation we need on primetime media to show young women that professional cookery is a strong career path!
Fiona: I personally don’t think that’s the case anymore, certainly across all The PIG’s there is a great mix in all of our kitchens. That said, there are not many women who make it to the top! I just have to mention my admiration for Angela Hartnett at some point during this!
How do you think having female chefs in the kitchen changes the team dynamic?
Charlotte: In my experience, it’s a far friendlier environment to work in. I think that men, when surrounded by several women, will be far less ‘macho’, which makes for a more relaxed dynamic within the team. I’ve met a handful of small-minded Chefs that believe that women are only good in kitchens when they’re on the pastry section! We have seven female chefs in THE PIG kitchen right now, which I think is fantastic. It’s essential to recognise that we’re just as capable of working a garnish, sauce, larder or breakfast section as any male Chef.
Sarah: I stood in our kitchen at THE PIG-near Bath a few years ago, and realised we had enough chefs to have an entirely female brigade running a service. More than that though, these women had been employed because they were the best people for the job. It had happened naturally without us really thinking about it. Almost 50% of our kitchen team are women.
If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
Sarah: Mrs White, my exceptional English teacher at GCSE, who was also a magistrate. We feared her like nobody else. I’d love to know if she was aware of her ‘persona’ - was it intentional? Or really her? Victoria Wood, seriously funny talent sadly gone too soon (can Julie Walters also pop in and do ‘two soups’ please). And, Kamala Harris, VP is a tough gig!
Charlotte: It would probably be Debbie Harry, Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers. Since I was a teenager, I’ve loved rock music, so I’d love to meet Debbie Harry and hear her stories of being a woman in rock music in the ’70s and ‘80s. Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers opened The River Café in London in the 1990s, which has significantly influenced the British food scene since then. They seem so cool! The food they cook is the exact type of food I like to cook and eat too – simple, but done properly, with the best ingredients you can find. Similar to us, I suppose!