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International Women’s Day: Mandy Jennings, Venues of Excellence

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PA Life’s Sienna Shipton talked to Mandy Jennings as part of our International Women’s Day series of interviews featuring inspirational women. The series covers women across different industries and professions, however we have found a common quality in all the women and that’s a believe in their own abilities and drive to succeed. 

Mandy’s impressive career in hospitality management spans over three decades, and is gained in multiple businesses. These include Thistle Hotels, Forte, Marriott and latterly as Group Sales Director for the De Vere Group and Principal Hayley Hotels and Conference Centres. In 2010 she set up her own consultancy business Paje Consultancy Ltd and has worked with hundreds of venues and hospitality businesses over the past 14 years providing training, consultancy support and sales representation.

In 2015 Mandy started working with Venues of Excellence to support their sales, marketing, and membership and was awarded the “Best Representation Company 2020” at the CHS Awards.  In 2021 she was delighted to purchase Venues of Excellence and is now the owner and CEO. She is extremely proud to have taken the organisation from strength to strength, which now represents 53 unique and independent UK conference and event venues.

She also holds extensive experience as a Non-Exec Board Director to Imago Venues at Loughborough University, Ashorne Hill Management Centre and was previously a board director for Academic Venue Solutions for 4 years, who represent the leading academic venues across the UK.

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How did you get started in hospitality? Was it ‘love at first serving’?

I had a passion for hotels from an early age, and it was totally love at first serving! After hotel management studies I worked in hotels across all departments from reception, bars, restaurants, conference and events. It was when I moved into wedding planning and finally proactive sales where I really found my real passion. I have worked with some incredible teams, selling fantastic products and services. What better job can you have where every day is different, and you get to meet so many amazing people!

Which female role models who have inspired you most?

I have worked with some of the most dynamic ladies in hospitality who have all inspired me .. the list of names would be very long! However, my most inspirational role models are the awesome team of ladies I am extremely proud to work with at VOE and Paje.  Everyone in the all-female team have huge experience in hospitality and inspire me every day with their superpowers!  Plus, they are managing to do this while being awesome Super Mums & Aunties at the same time!

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

I was told by Charles Allen who was the CEO at Forte Hotels early in my career, “to never loose my energy, passion and enthusiasm, as this would take me far in life!”

What words of encouragement would you give to other women to help inspire their professional journeys?

Have a vision for what you want to do in the future, plan how you are going to get there, be steadfast in your values, be brave, be bold, and reach for the stars!

The gender pay gap is still prevalent in many industries. How can women achieve the salary their hard work and skills deserve?

I have always been a believer that you need to project a positive image to gain positive impact. Always seek opportunities to impress people of influence. Consider what they would want to know when they ask you questions, and be interested in your organisation and its success. Plan for your future and be clear on your aspirations. Put effort into your performance and salary reviews and set out your stall as you would negotiate with a customer. And finally, you must believe in yourself to convince and influence others of your worth.

The wealth gap gets wider as we age. This is another serious issue for all women, whatever their age. How would you start to tackle this?

My focus areas would be:

Increase access to high quality education to all and offer at a reasonable cost to allow people to increase skills and help younger people to start on their career ladder with equal advantage.

Continually review the minimum wage and encourage employers to offer the real living wage.

Cap the ratio of top executive pay to worker’s pay.

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