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Celebrating the future of women in hospitality



A group of powerhouse women from across the Newcastle Hunter region filled Customs House recently for the industry’s second Women in Hospitality Luncheon.


Part fundraiser, part celebration, the event included an insightful Q&A with the inaugural AHA NSW - Newcastle Hunter Women’s Scholarship recipients Stephanie Grace, Katherine Maples and Emily Box.


Scholarship facilitators, former Solotel CEO and industry powerhouse Justine Baker, and author, international business leader and strategy consultant Gill McLaren also attended along with guest speaker and local city leader Cr Carol Duncan.


Proudly supported by Pitcher Partners Newcastle Hunter and Ausure Hospitality, the event was attended by 114 women from across the local hospitality industry. It provided an opportunity for guests to learn more about the scholarship program and to also enjoy an afternoon of networking and social engagement.


“This event is something we’re incredibly proud of,” AHA NSW – Newcastle Hunter President Mick Starkey said.


“Hearing from the participants that the program actually changed their life in terms of learning more about who they are and how they can better reach their career, and perhaps personal, goals make it all worthwhile.


“It’s also a fantastic opportunity for a diverse demographic of women to come together and learn from each other. For those just starting out it’s incredibly inspiring to hear from women who have become leaders in their field like Justine Baker, Gill McLaren and Carol Duncan. And for those who have helped set the tone for our industry over the years, it’s rewarding for them to see first-hand that their legacy is being carried forward by some incredible young women.”


Scholarship recipient Katherine Maples described the networking and relationship-building aspects of the program and the event overall as immensely valuable.


“Over the course of the scholarship, I've had the privilege of forging such strong connections with Steph and Em, with whom I might never have crossed paths with due to our diverse professional backgrounds within the Newcastle Hunter region,” she said.


“I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate, exchange ideas, share frustrations, and collectively evolve with these incredibly talented women which I believe has been truly invaluable for my personal and professional growth.”



“I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate, exchange ideas, share frustrations, and collectively evolve with these incredibly talented women which I believe has been truly invaluable for my personal and professional growth” – Katherine Maples.

For Box, the connections made throughout the process are something she said will stay with her for years to come.


“Meeting Justine and Gill and working with them was an incredible experience. These ladies have extensive experience of being women in business and almost seem to know the answer to everything,” she said.

“Also meeting and connecting with Kat and Steph has been so special. To have like-minded women around you is something I am so fortunate to now have.”


Likewise, Grace said the scholarship benefited her in all aspects of life.


“This scholarship has provided me with focus, support, passion and a community of women who are navigating through similar situations within our industry,” she said.


“Anyone who is passionate about hospitality as a career should apply.”


The AHA NSW - Newcastle Hunter Women’s Scholarship will run again in 2024.




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