This year’s WiHTL Index of Women to Watch recognised two of Aramark UK’s amazing Operations Directors; Jane Cookson and Sharon Goldthorpe. Now in its third year, the 2021 Index highlights the profiles of dozens of women distinguished for their commercial and operational excellence, industry and social impact, achievements, resilience and commitment to the industry.
Sharon, who joined Aramark in 2019 as an Operations Director, gives an insight into her career to date and explains why it’s important for women to use their voice.
How did you start your career in the foodservice sector?
I’ve been interested in the catering side of hospitality since I was young, after leaving school I took the opportunity to train as a chef. Once I finished catering college, I wanted to go down the culinary route. I got my first job with a contract catering group and progressed, becoming an operational support manager. I worked in different management roles over the years, then eventually found myself at Aramark in 2019. Overtime, I decided that I was at a point in my career where I wanted to challenge myself, so I moved into Aramark Defence Services. The main focus is soft facilities management, but catering is very much a part of it.
The Ministry of Defene services continued throughout Covid-19, so we had to keep delivering. I’ve recently been appointed as Regional Operations Director at Aramark, where I now direct a whole region.
If you were not working in this industry, which sector would you work in?
If I’m being honest, I wouldn’t have chosen anything else, I feel as though I would have always chosen to work within hospitality because I love the industry.
There is a part of me that would have liked to have been involved in politics in some form or another. It’s never too late, there is still time for me to learn more. There are so many leading female politicians who are inspiring to me.
How are women and diverse employees empowered through your organisation?
Aramark has some employee resource groups (ERGs) within the business offering allyship for those that may face barriers within the workplace. EMPOWER is our female focused ERG, it offers opportunities for connection, collaboration and sharing of personal experiences with like-minded people, for example parenting and various other challenges that the females in business may experience on a day-to-day basis. It is a useful platform given to women within the company and wider.
What advice would you give to that next generation of women considering entering the sector?
One of the big things is using your voice. The other bit of advice is that it’s okay to make mistakes, it is something we all do, and we often learn from the mistakes. I also think it is important to grab every opportunity that you can. I’m still grabbing the opportunities now, even though I’m further on in my career.
I would also encourage young women to celebrate being a female in business and using their voices confidently. It is so important to keep progressing, keep challenging yourself, and more importantly, just enjoy what you do, that’s my philosophy.
Why do you think role models are important to advance diversity and inclusion?
Learning from strong female leaders help us learn how to achieve excellence. The things we learn from them can then be implemented into our career progression.
Fellow woman to watch, Jane Cookson, will share her career journey and advice for females in the catering later this week.
These interviews were captured and featured by the fantastic team at WiHTL, as part of their report.