Peer Perspectives: Jane Pendlebury, CEO, HOSPA in conversation

Jane Pendlebury is a well-recognised face within hospitality. Over the last eight years, she has worked hard in her role as CEO to ensure HOSPA continues to support and connect industry specialists, providing ongoing developmental support and advice even during some of the sector’s toughest times. We caught up with Jane recently about how she started her journey into hospitality, her tips for anyone thinking of a career in the industry, and why the sector can look forward to a bright future!

Like many people I started working during the school holidays as a waitress in a local hotel, The Castle Hotel in Taunton. I decided to study for a degree in hospitality and subsidised my student grant with more restaurant work. I remember trying to get a position in banqueting but had not been trained in Silver Service. After a couple of failed interviews, I decided to say I could silver serve and immediately got the job! My lovely Mother then took me out to a restaurant so that I could watch and learn the technique. I was nervous before my first shift but managed to get away with it. Working on events was fun and typically the waiting duties were over by around 9pm, when I would join my fellow students for a night out – with a bit of extra cash in my pocket!

My degree included a year out in industry, so I worked through all the departments at what was then a Devere hotel and ended up as a duty manager. It was a great experience and, as a result, I have experienced working in housekeeping, in the kitchen, as a switchboard operator, in guest relations, as a night auditor, in payroll – the list is very long!

My first ‘proper’ job was Front Of House manager in a Country House Hotel and my second job came from one of our regular guests who offered me a job at the reception desk. That second position took me to London and after a couple of years I ended up – almost by accident, as is so often the case – in the hospitality technology side of the business.

What do you envision for the future of the hospitality industry, and how do you think it will evolve in terms of opportunities for women?

The most important thing is that I am certain there will always be a need for hospitality. Regardless of the challenges we face as an industry, we are particularly good at pivoting to meet the changing demands of our guests and customers. The pandemic was a shining example of this, where many hotels, restaurants and pubs sought out opportunities to continue to serve the great British public. There was true flexibility and remarkable resilience displayed by hospitality businesses during that very tricky time – and this will continue whatever new developments we face, be that AI or robot waiters.

I believe that as hospitality businesses become more commercial, the opportunities will grow, especially for women. There will be an increase in the diversity of job roles available. For example, the ‘Commercial Director’ job title was very rare a few years ago and yet there are many such roles in 2024 and many of them are held by inspiring women. Previously roles such as GMs and head chefs were male-dominated. And whilst that’s still the case to an extent, we’re seeing more and more standout female GMs demonstrating how to do a fantastic job. With more senior roles out there women have more platforms from which to shine. We just need to make sure they are given that opportunity.

Another great development is the increase in flexible working options. These are so easy to create and have opened up new careers for women and men juggling family life and other responsibilities alongside working. It’s this that I think is key for women in particular though. The ability to finish early for the school run can’t be understated – while you can still put your skills to good use in the time around it.

What tips do you have for anyone thinking of hospitality as a career?

Okay, my tips are:

  • If you work hard, you are likely to rise quickly through the ranks. The hospitality industry is a true meritocracy!
  • Don’t consider working shifts a burden – but look at the positives! Working during social hours can be enormous fun, making money while others spend it. 
  • Figure out which part of the business appeals to you and pursue your ambitions towards that goal.
  • The opportunities are endless, from entry-level positions right through to business owner – there are a wealth of positions to suit almost anyone, as long as they have a smile on their face!

Discover the warmth and hospitality awaiting you at

The Castle Hotel

Taunton, United Kingdom