What International Women’s Day Means to Us

D’you remember last year when we interviewed some of our team about what it’s like to work at Hawksmoor? Well, we’ve done it again. More women. More stirring stories. Honestly, their candour is nothing short of inspiring.

Let’s start with our Egalitarian-in-Chief, Sofia Gassne. In this short video, she talks lucidly about IWD and how to champion its tenets year-round – rather than just for a day. She brings news too: the Women at Hawksmoor group is now officially live. Read their interviews below.

Genuine equity. We’re getting there.

Ceri Gott – Chief People Officer

“I’m so proud to work somewhere that takes equality seriously and is working proactively for a safer, happier and more inclusive hospitality industry. It’s inspiring to sit around leadership tables where half the seats are filled by women, work with a fantastic female Chair, and hear the discussions of our 70-strong Women at Hawksmoor group, who are spearheading improvements to day to day work. Women’s voices are contributing at all levels – and everyone benefits as a result. “

Marina Roger – Recruitment Coordinator

Favourite Dish: Caesar salad. “Classic food done superbly.”


Marina started at Hawksmoor last year as front-of-house but quickly moved into an HR role. It was just before Christmas and we needed new staff – fast. Expanding after the pandemic remains a big challenge, but Marina stepped in and put her talent to work.

“I’ve done a lot of jobs, but nurturing connections and navigating people’s dreams is what I feel passionate about. I’m also someone who can’t sit still, so being part of a community that actively wants to upskill you is great. I mean, just look at my transition: waitress to recruiter in a year.

I remember I’d just graduated from my Master’s degree, Covid restrictions were lifting and I needed some financial security. I spoke to my assistant general manager at Guildhall and told her my situation. She quickly carved an opportunity for me at the restaurant. I didn’t look back.

I started in the Women’s Group on day one

It was exciting. It happened to be at a time when women’s rights were front and centre in public discourse: anti-abortion laws in the US; the revolutions in Iran. Sofia had also partnered with the Mayor of London’s Women’s Night Safety Charter.

When we met, we dived straight into what could be done immediately: for instance, installing a wellness box in every property. Things that make the plight of female existence a bit easier! Lighting was another thing: particularly outside when you’re closing up.

I must say I was worried… it might just be another group moan about the patriarchy. It wasn’t like that at all. I remember sitting out in the sun at Wood Wharf with everyone having their say and being heard. Some of the male managers were there too, talking about allyship and accountability.

Generally, I really like that there’s belief around issues I’ve had. When I had a problem with a male colleague early on, I didn’t have to try and convince someone of how I was feeling. There was an open channel, no shame and things got sorted immediately.”

Caoimhe Duignan – Business Development Manager in Edinburgh

Favourite Dish: Tunworth mash. “Potatoes and cheese are life!”

Caoimhe’s background is fascinating: once a research scientist, she soon dropped the pipette and retrained in gastronomy before quickly climbing the hospitality ranks. In a few short years, she’s become a de facto brand ambassador for us in Scotland.

“When I first arrived at Hawksmoor back in 2021, the team up here in Edinburgh won a CODE Hospitality award – which recognises women in business – for representation across our management roles. In fact, they were all women.
Seeing that leadership in those role models was so inspiring. Also, I’ve always seen Hawksmoor as a collection of outliers and there’s a kinship in that. I saw that I could be a square peg in a round hole – I’ve had a pretty unusual career! – but that I wasn’t the only one. That felt good.”

The importance of Bcorp

“I care about this company’s profit because I know it will positively impact people and planet. That means doubling down on our Bcorp commitments to carbon neutrality, but also continuing our work with representation. That’s why the women’s group at Hawksmoor is so important.

I think in order to achieve equity, establishing a working group where conversations about diversity and the importance of community is vital. With these meetings I feel like we can actually affect change.”

Equity or equality?

“The difference, I think, is that equity allows us to look at the gaps – places we’re not seeing positive change. It’s more analytical in that sense and therefore more progressive. And that’s at the core of our women’s group at Hawksmoor.

There are still conversations that aren’t really being had in society: for example, the challenges that women face from other women. While exploring that feels quite controversial, it’s an important next step. The beauty of the Women’s Group is that this sort of thing can be heard.”

Naledi Dube – Admin Assistant and Waitress

Favourite Dish: Steelhead trout crudo.

Let’s put things into context here: Naledi is still a student and yet she’s deftly balancing her responsibilities as a cross-department admin assistant – and a waitress. Her energy and hunger to learn are an inspiration.

“This is my first ‘big’ job and the fact that I’m being given the chance to learn and progress is amazing. Even writing emails and dealing with things in a professional and mature way – they’ve been big steps. Now I’m not just booking travel, I’m in charge of certain things.

I’m actually the only member of the Women’s Group and that is also a part of the Restaurant Support Team at the Lowback Bar. The team are super supportive. When I don’t understand something they’re very open to helping me. There are no eye rolls. Just a constant emphasis on the importance of teamwork and I see how this trickles down to the restaurants.

The Women’s Group

I think it’s really good. I noticed when I joined just how many different women are in it. Ages, backgrounds, languages – it’s a beautiful mix and we all have very different experiences. That feels very healthy to me.

I’ve never been in a group where I feel I’m actually listened to and my points are being genuinely considered. When other people agree with me on things it gives me the confidence to continue to speak my mind.

Stuff I’ve brought up

Staff-customer boundaries is a big one for me. Sometimes we’re so polite, even when those we’re serving are being awful. I want to know when it’s OK to drop the “customer is always right” stance and defend yourself. We’re chatting about that at the next meeting.

I also think it’s important we focus on how sexism plays out in language use: even saying, “That woman is too loud” – it contributes to an overall feeling of being on the back foot. With all that in mind, we need men on our side. Involving them in the Women’s Group is a great start.”

Lilly Burton – Talent Coordinator and Recruiter

Favourite Dish: South coast monkfish. “From my home town in Devon”

Writer, performer and creative, Lilly has many strings to her bow. In her own words, she can “talk a horse off a cliff”. We agree, which is why she’s now leading the charge in recruiting the best people in the industry.

“Engaging with people comes to me quite naturally and that’s the reason I love hospitality so much. Having been front of house for years, I was then crane lifted in to help with the recruitment drive after Covid – and with all our new openings.

It’s fast-paced and you’re working to create opportunities for people – this really fits my temperament and energy. Being trusted to do things in a way that channels my strengths has been a really positive experience.

Outside of work

I’m an executive committee member for Abortion Rights UK and I champion reproductive rights for women. I’ve also written a one-woman show called Termination Station. It’s a comedy cabaret about my personal experience with abortion.

I feel my experience marries really well with my work in hospitality. For example, I’ve helped two women at Hawksmoor through their abortion process. That’s been really significant for me – that I can give them the support they need.

Hawksmoor has been supportive of my activism, too. For a recent fundraiser, they gave me two bartenders and I go all the ingredients for free. When they came under fire from far-right groups, they didn’t tell me. I was protected from it.

Collective shared experiences

With the Women’s Group, it felt really reassuring to know that there’s a dedicated space for women to voice concerns and feel united. Being able to explore harassment on a basic level is so important. And safety: walking home alone at night is a problem for all of us.

So there are systematic issues about being a woman in hospitality that need addressing. But I’ve been at Hawksmoor for five years now. Why? Because I’ve never been in a situation where I felt hierarchy was more important than my problems. I mean, I’m friends with all my managers!”

Emily Munro – Wine Manager at Guildhall

Favourite Dish: Bone marrow with caramelised onions. “With our amazing Greek natural wine”

Wine. Emily lives and loves the stuff. She knows how to serve it in a way that genuinely augments guests’ experiences. No one’s faking those smiles. We cherish her for that, but also for the energy she puts into helping our less-experienced team members flourish.

“For me, enjoying fantastic food and drink experiences is one of life’s great pleasures and it’s a passion of mine to deliver that for other people. I love watching their faces when they try an amazing wine pairing I’ve prepared.

My focus on people isn’t reserved for our customers, though. Being a female in the industry, I want to be a mentor and provide the opportunity for more women to train and develop in a way that wasn’t available to me. Just being present in supporting women to succeed.

Personality and values

They sound like hype words, but Hawksmoor has never told me to be anything but me. It’s one of the first times I’ve worked for a company where I feel championed and celebrated for being myself. It gives me more confidence to be more creative with my ideas.

To not have to compartmentalise my personality or worry about being me – it’s rare. It took me a while to work it out, but they genuinely want people to be themselves. And that makes everyone feel safe, so we can focus on our jobs.”

Sophie Bonnat – Restaurant Manager at Wood Wharf

When Sophie left us we were very sad. Though, it’s hard to argue when someone tells you they’re off to volunteer in Uganda. Her return couldn’t have been better timing – we needed a rock-solid restaurant manager at Wood Wharf. Now she heads up a team of 50.

“When I started I was a waitress, but I showed an interest in wine and they paid for my qualifications. They took a chance and before long I was a sommelier. I remember there were very few women in the top jobs back then. I’m delighted to see how it’s changed.

Especially in the general manager roles: they were historically more of a man’s position, but now it’s 50/50. I guess it helps to see that happening because you can begin to imagine yourself in those sorts of roles in the future.

It all feels quite new

In the Women’s Group, we’re just starting to touch on some things. But what I really like from what I’ve seen so far is the affirmation you get. When I’m conveying a story or concern I look around the room and everyone’s nodding. It’s nice to feel your concerns aren’t just your own.

I like how Sofia (who created the Women’s Group) actually asks what we can do about the issues. It feels very solutions-focused. The fact that she’s also working with the Women’s Night Safety Charter is cool, too. It’s not just at work anymore – we’re working on societal issues.

Outside of work

One thing I’ve always been passionate about is volunteering. Hawksmoor helped me to raise money for a charity over in Gambia. I went out there for a week and it was a life-changing experience for me. That’s what led me to taking time off to volunteer in Uganda.

You used to be able to take a paid day off every year for charity work. Since I’ve come back, it’s gone up to 20 hours. So it’s not just about equity in the workplace; there’s the opportunity here to do things that make a difference for a whole range of people in society.”

Join us at Hawksmoor this March and raise a glass to equity.