Questions to Vanessa Black, HR Director, Midway Europe & New Openings - Merlin Entertainments

To celebrate International Women’s Day & Women’s History Month, Krishnan asked a few questions to Vanessa Black, HR Director, Midway Europe & New Openings - Merlin Entertainments

What does IWD mean to you? 

International Women’s Day is such an important day as it makes us pause and take stock of all of the amazing achievements that women have made in all aspects of life. It’s also an additional opportunity to showcase great women who really make a difference within our businesses.

Why haven't we achieved equality, despite legislation in place regarding pay? 

Although some progress has been made, there is still a really long way to go – changes need to take place in organisations from the top down, with true representation at board level (and in senior leadership roles) for us to really start making progress. 

How would you advise young women leaders on how to build confidence in their ability as a manager and leader? 

Never stop learning and developing yourself, for me this should be continual throughout your career - these may be formal or informal learning opportunities. Say ‘yes’ to any interesting project work that comes your way - this will expand your horizons, add to your experience, and critically give exposure to people who can support you in your career. As they say, ‘knowledge is power’ and these learning opportunities can really aid in building confidence as you continue to grow as a manager.

Also, having a mentor, or someone you really trust as a sounding board as you continue to grow in your career and as a leader is key – they will support you through your most challenging times.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders? 

I love the Edith Piaf quote; “When you reach the top, you should remember to send the elevator back down for the others”. We’ve all had people in our career who have given us a helping hand and our female leaders both now and in the future have a responsibility to develop, inspire and motivate the following generation of female leaders, it’s about recognising the potential in other women and helping them to succeed. 

What initiatives should companies invest in to promote women in leadership?


As a starting point, companies need to ensure that their business can attract women to work for their company and retain them - inflexible working environments drive away talented women so businesses really need to look at how they can make work, truly work for their employees.

At Merlin Entertainments, we launched Dynamic working in 2020, which is more than just a flexible working policy; it’s about empowering and trusting everyone to think creatively about how, when and where they work to deliver the best possible outcomes for the business and fir them – this enables our employees to achieve work/life balance and is important for women who often juggle work and caring responsibilities.  I believe this level of flexibility in business is critical in retaining female talent.

Additionally, within Hospitality and Leisure there is a disproportionate number of female workers in front line/entry level jobs – businesses within this sector have a real opportunity to design specific development programs to support top female talent to build their career from within and reach their potential.

What women inspire you? 

I recently read ‘Work like a Woman’ by Mary Portas which was an inspirational read - she really challenges the working culture of the past and advocates putting values like fairness, kindness, collaboration back into business.

I’ve been really blessed throughout my career insofar as I’ve worked with so many strong and inspirational female (and male) leaders who have really supported me in my development throughout my career and have given me so many amazing opportunities.

However, my greatest inspiration was my mum who sadly passed away last year - she encouraged my sister and I as we grew up to be strong females and instilled in us that anything is possible and that you can do and be whatever you want to be in life regardless of gender stereotypes. She was a true feminist and ahead of her time. 

What advice would you give your younger self? 

Drop the inner critic now, otherwise it will be following you around for decades to come.


Date Published: 29th March 2021