Inspiring women in the hospitality, leisure and travel industry

Rosa Sanchez-Olmos, featured in a report on women to watch in the hospitality, travel and leisure industry, talks about her role in the catering industry and the importance of diversity.


WiHTL has just published its ‘Women to Watch & Role Models for Inclusion in Hospitality, Travel & Leisure Index 2021’ which highlights the profiles of dozens of women distinguished for their commercial and operational excellence, industry and social impact, achievements, resilience and commitment to the industry.  The Index also features 14 ‘Role Models for Inclusion’ in the industry – individuals who are working hard to foster a culture of inclusion and belonging within their organisations.  These include those who might have been a vocal champion for an aspect of diversity and inclusion.

Tea Colaianni, Founder and Chair of WiHTL, said: “For the third year since it was first launched, this year’s Index highlights the phenomenal female talent pool and role models for inclusion we have in the Hospitality, Travel and Leisure industry.  I am proud to share the success stories of the women featured who have achieved leadership, entrepreneurial, and commercial success whilst the role models for inclusion have made a wider contribution to their organisation in furthering inclusion and belonging…My hope is that these stories will encourage the next generation of talent to enter and progress within this exciting and inclusive sector.”

One of those featured in the report is Rosa Sanchez-Olmos, Finance Director at contract catering firm Elior. Below, taken from the report, she talks about her career.

Q: Tell us about your career?

All my professional career I’ve been working in finance. I joined Elior in February 2018. Before that time, I worked for almost 20 years in a well-known bakery company in Spain called Bimbo.

During that period, I grew up professionally as the company was bought out by a large US-based group, and then a Mexican conglomerate, Grupo Bimbo. Two different multinational companies with different cultures, processes and behaviours. I learnt from all of them.

After those intense years, I made the decision to take a break and look for a change. I took a year off to look after my children – my oldest was 13 and becoming a teenager, and I felt I needed some real time with all of them.

I returned to the professional world thinking “I want to work somewhere where I feel comfortable, where I can really fit, and where people are passionate about their work and their mission.” Sharing the mission and the values is key to being passionate and happy at work; as we spend so many hours at work, it is key to feeling complete in life.

I was considering a number of opportunities, and Serunion [the leading contract catering company in Spain and a subsidiary of Elior Group] stood out. We work mainly in schools, providing food service, and everyone here is passionate about giving children a healthy diet and teaching them about eating, food waste and manners. I think it’s really important that we teach future generations to have a healthier life and to preserve our planet.

Q: What do you find most fulfilling in your role?

Taking care of people. We look after children, after old people, after patients and their health in hospitals. I think sometimes we don’t realise how relevant our work is – but the role that we play in society, in teaching children about food and keeping communities fed, could not be more important.

When I was a child at the canteen at school, or even when I became a mother and had children who ate in school canteens, I never considered how much work goes on behind the scenes. There is a great team working hard to make everything work and be coherent with our values and goals.

Q: How important do you think diversity and inclusion are in the workplace?

I think that teams with a mix of genders, backgrounds and personalities are far richer than those with, say, only men or only women. Difference complements the work environment and sharing the different ways we see things can be invaluable.

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