An Interview with Joanne Barratt, Managing Director of The Venues Collection on International Women’s Day 2023

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This year’s theme (2023) is equity – focusing on the fact that everyone is different, and everyone has personal needs that should be catered for to bring everyone up to the same level playing field.

Let’s get started..

Past: What’s your personal experience of equity? Have you ever enabled a team member to do something by giving them what they needed? Did you benefit from equity?

In the early stages of my career, hospitality was a very male dominated environment. Sexism wasn’t blatant, but I was called ‘sweetie’ by one member of the team, often expected to take the meeting notes, and at one employer, women weren’t even allowed to wear trousers. Thankfully times have moved on and I hope that by being a female MD, the teams I work with are both inspired and also enabled to reach their full potential; they can see we do not have a glass ceiling. Equity means treating people as individuals and working out what each person specifically needs to achieve their potential. For example, the hospitality industry lost a lot of chefs through the pandemic, and in our bid to attract more chefs to our venues, we found an incredibly talented woman who couldn’t work the traditional shift pattern because she has young children. So with the co-operation with the wider team we changed her working pattern to enable her to work and also be there for her children when she needed to be. We couldn’t do this for everyone, and everyone wouldn’t need or want this arrangement, but for her it made all the difference.

Present: how are you/ your organisation/ your clients empowering women by embracing equity? Have you seen anything in the industry that embraces equity to focus on helping women?

 We are part of Compass Group UK and Ireland and we have an initiative called ‘Women in Food’ that was initially created to help bring more women into catering, but now has expanded to represent all our female talent across every sector of our organisation. I’m a great believer in growing our own talent and the Women in Food initiative supports this.

Future: what do we (our industry and society in general) need to put in place to ensure women have an equitable future?

Last year I became a mentor for the 30% Club, it’s a worldwide, multi-industry initiative created to boost female representation in the world’s biggest companies, and it matches mentors and mentees according to their goals and experiences. We tend to think that mentoring is just for younger people starting their careers, but I’m a keen advocate for the benefits that mentoring brings to every stage of a woman’s life and career. This can be especially true for women in their 50s as there can be a tendency to feel invisible and overlooked. I’m also encouraged by the number of initiatives around bringing more focus and attention on the menopause and I was very pleased to be invited to take part in the M&IT round table to discuss this.

Diversity and inclusion remains a key priority for The Venues Collection. Celebrating International Women’s Day is just a small part of this. Our colleagues are key to creating an ongoing inclusive environment and we have a number of dedicated networks, run by colleagues for colleagues which promote, celebrate and raise awareness of key topics and issues, to enhance inclusivity. If you want to get in touch with us, to find out more please email

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