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By Harriet Leigh, Head of Hospitality ISSUE #008 IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN | Community

Paige Aubort on Championing Women in Hospitality

Paige Aubort is the Group Operations Manager for Mary’s Group, which owns venues including Mary’s, Mary’s CBD, the Unicorn Hotel, and The Landsdowne Hotel. Two years ago Paige started Coleman’s Academy, a not for profit mentorship program for young women in hospitality. We thought it was about time to quiz her on it.

Highlight moments so far?

The women who attended Coleman's telling me they got the raise, got the promotion, quit the job and applied to a better company, or held management accountable for sexual harassment misconduct. The women who speak at Coleman’s who were brought to tears when discussing failures, achievements, losses and triumphs. Seeing the legitimate positive impact it has had on so many women’s lives. Lastly, the relationships formed since it began. Coleman’s acted as some sort of giant magnet which drew a bunch of incredible women towards me. They came out of the woodwork through forms of support, guidance and help and haven’t left my side since, I am nothing without them. It brings tears to my eyes and makes my heart swell. Note to self: it’s ok to be emotional and be proud of the good work you’ve done.

What are you most proud of?

My ability to commit to this through all the self doubt, financial struggles and speakers declining the opportunity to talk (it’s tough not to take it personally when someone says they don’t want to speak but I’ve come to realise we’re all on our own journey and just because they don’t seem to know how great their story is, it doesn’t magically erase their own fears). I’ve always been incredibly hard on myself and I think, like most humans, that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. I am not a goer. I am more of a 'just push it into the corner and ignore it till it goes away'. But the bloody thing just wouldn’t die. Women kept reaching out to me, as did brands and publications and even when the fear of failure was overwhelming and it felt like I couldn’t stand another rejection there was always someone there to remind me this thing has legs. Even after two years, there isn’t a single Coleman’s Academy session where I don’t wake up with dread on the day. Stomach-sinking, heart-pounding dread that not a single person will attend. It’s truly a painful experience for someone with anxiety. I wish I could say I am most proud of one of the speakers or attendees and whilst I am incredibly proud, it’s not what I’m most proud of. Seeing this through, despite the anxiety, that’s what I’m most proud of.

What's next?

We’re going national at the moment, we’ve just been to Melbourne and will be in Brisbane this month, a really great Bar Week event (open to women and men), Coleman’s in at least one international city, Bar Convent would be a dream, Tales of the Cocktail 2019 and my biggest dream is to get it sponsored nationally and internationally.

Last year you were listed in Forbes Asia’s 30 under 30. How did that feel?

It felt as if Forbes had made a mistake and that they needed women to fill a particular quota and I was one of them (hello, Imposter Syndrome). Once a couple of friends got wind of it though ("got wind” - I shared it online) the encouragement and pride they instilled in me was great. That is Coleman’s at its finest, a circle of hype women who force you to love yourself and your achievements regardless of whether you feel deserving or not.

In the wake of #metoo, what has changed?

Sexual harassment within our industry has always (always, always, always) been a conversation within the female section of our industry (if you didn’t hear it then you weren’t listening or creating a space where women felt comfortable talking about it). Nothing has changed in that respect except maybe we’re all a little more saddened for realising just how many of our cherished friends have been sexually assaulted. What has changed is that now it’s become more a more acceptable conversation, women aren’t as afraid of the retribution of speaking out about it (will I get hired? Will I be made pariah for holding them accountable? Will I be believed? Will I create an uncomfortable environment for everyone that I work with and be resented for causing hassle?). It’s also forced a lot of guys to think about their past and present behaviour. Lines are being drawn in the sand when it comes to what’s acceptable and what’s not and what exactly is consent. Yes, women are carrying the emotional labour of telling their stories but I am happy to see that no expectation has been placed on women to explain to men just what sexual harassment is. Years from now we’ll look back and see who rose to the top and who didn’t. This is still very much a male-dominated industry and kudos to the influential men like Iain Griffiths who stepped forwarded to keep the conversation in the limelight.

What are your feelings on men's FOMO of not being allowed into Coleman’s?

I think it is entirely deserved. Coleman’s is awesome! They are totally missing out on an amazing opportunity. With that said, if any men are actively feeling negative towards CA for not being male inclusive then they don’t understand how Coleman’s works (hint: it works because you’re not there). Most importantly, a single guy is yet to reach out to me to in the hope of working together to create a mixed gendered session. No love lost, however it’s sad because I can see that the male half of the industry would benefit greatly from something like this. Also shout out to the dudes who experience FOMO, take the time to watch all the videos on Vimeo and recognise why this is one of those times they just can’t have a seat at the table. You guys rule.

If you are a woman working in hospitality and would like to attend a Coleman’s Academy then please contact info@colemansacademy.com