International Women’s Day – A Q&A with Wiktoria Grabowska

Today, March 8th is International Women’s Day. This year’s official IWD theme is ‘Choose to Challenge’ and is based on the mantra that a challenged world is an alert world, and we should celebrate women’s achievements so we can collectively help create an inclusive world.

For over a decade, the day marks the celebration of the social, political, economic, and cultural achievements of women around the globe and throughout history. Women have come a long way, but how does the Hospitality Industry measure up?

We spoke to Wiktoria Grabowska, Operations Manager at Inspire Catering about her personal experience of being a woman in hospitality.

About Wiktoria

Wiktoria joined Inspire in 2017 as Operations Support Manager, with a wealth of experience in the catering industry working for high profile, multi-site clients. Since joining inspire, Wiktoria has been supporting our contracts and now, in her role as Operations Manager, has assumed management responsibility of both Education and B&I contracts in the central belt. Wiktoria’s experience and exceptional work ethic provide the perfect platform to deliver excellent performance for our clients, driving growth and continued improvements across our business.

Q: What do you think it means to be a woman in hospitality today?

A: Since I joined contract catering sector over 14 years ago, I had a pleasure of working with many women, who were both driven and passionate about service and food. At the time, the industry was still male-dominated, however as the years went by, I have seen that dynamic shifting, offering more opportunities for women in leadership roles.

In an industry, which focuses greatly on customer satisfaction, being interactive and people orientated for me is a must. Women often have a natural ability to connect, show empathy and build strong relationships. It’s important to recognise the value a female representation can bring to Client relations. That’s not to say we don’t need gender diversity in a workplace. On the contrary, mixed management teams are often most successful, as they encourage individuals to bring different skills to the table. I am very fortunate to work with a very supportive team at Inspire Catering and it gives you confidence when you feel your opinion is valued.

Q: What do you think is the biggest issue facing women today? (or women in leadership roles)

A: It is often assumed that career progression requires sacrifices and does not allow much room for personal life. I always contested that belief. It is true that ambition needs to be supported by hard work and commitment, however work-life balance is really determined by us. In the recent years, I have noticed that the more I allowed myself to enjoy time off, to pursue hobbies or to stay active, the easier I found to return to work and fulfil my duties.

Q: What do you find to be the most challenging part of being an Operations Manager?

A: Deciding which fire to fight first….. 😊

The catering industry is fast-paced and often throws up many challenges at the same time. I enjoy change and embrace constant progress, but sometimes it is important to stop and see how others are coping. Being a leader is not just about completing tasks well. For me, it’s more about understanding how to create an environment where people can learn and grow. Being able to adapt the pace to help them develop their skills.

Q: Who are your most inspirational female icons and why?

A: Out of all the catering companies I have worked for, Inspire Catering by far employed the most female chefs and they are all inspirational to me. The kitchen environment can be quite challenging for a woman, and at times is still male-dominated. Seeing a female Head Chef running the kitchen successfully always fills me with great joy. I would love to see more women in Executive Chef or Culinary Director roles, leading the food development, but also inspiring other women to join the industry.

Q: What advice would you share with women who are at the start of their hospitality careers and aspire to reach a senior position?

A: I remember being told years ago by a young girl in my team how lucky I was that my company invested in my training and valued my knowledge and promoted me to my first managerial role. I felt quite disappointed and hurt by that comment, as my accomplishment had little to do with luck and a lot to do with hard work and perseverance. Things don’t just happen if you patiently wait for your turn. It’s important to identify your strengths and then work on the weaknesses. You also need to be confident enough to ask for help in pursuing your goals.

Q: Finally, what is your personal motto/mantra?

A: “If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney

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