Black History Month is an annual celebration that provides an opportunity to recognise and appreciate the remarkable contributions of Black individuals across various fields.
This year, the theme of Black History Month is ‘Saluting our Sisters’, highlighting the crucial and often overlooked role that Black women have played in history. In honour of this special occasion, we would like to highlight the experiences of two extraordinary Black women working at our venue: Meetings and Events Planner Neyat Iyasu and Senior Meetings and Events Planner Natasha Camenzuli. These women, with their unique journeys and perspectives, demonstrate the resilience, talent and potential of Black women in the hospitality industry.
Trailblazers in hospitality
Natasha joined the Royal College of Physicians back in 2016, where she manages internal, social and staff events for the organisation as well as events and ceremonies involving RCP Fellows.
Talking about the reasons why she decided to work in hospitality, she says: "I have always loved planning, creativity, and hosting. When I was very young, I would create little parties, decorate the table and boss everyone about where to sit, so clearly, I was destined for events."
Reflecting on her journey, Natasha recounts: “After a short stint in insurance, I did a diploma in Event Management and landed my first role as an Event Coordinator on a ship on the River Thames. I absolutely loved it and collected a variety of experience in different positions before securing a maternity contract at the Royal College of Physicians, which eventually turned into a permanent position.”
Climbing the ladder in events management
Neyat is one of the most recent additions to RCP London Events, having joined the Meetings and Events team earlier in 2023 to work on external, commercial events taking place at the venue. She describes her experiences saying: "My journey has been quite positive in the hospitality world. I managed to start off as an Event Coordinator and work my way up to management level. I have always been treated with respect and have been awarded when it was due."
Neyat also acknowledges the need for more diversity in leadership positions saying: "While I haven't been through many challenges as a Black woman, I think I would love to see more Black women in the events industry. I don't see many women of colour in management and think it would be really inspiring and motivating to see us represented in higher positions."
Inspiration and mentoring
Natasha draws inspiration from her aunties and chef Andi Oliver, saying: "I think that all black women are amazing, inspiring, and wonderful beings that deserve to be saluted. However, someone I really like in hospitality is chef Andi Oliver! I love her style, her boldness, confidence and her character. I also have aunties who have carved out amazing careers for themselves, despite the challenges they have faced along the way. They continually amaze and inspire me and have set not only me a great example to follow but any future daughter/children of mine."
Neyat recalls the influence of her former manager, saying: "I had a manager a few years back, who was a Black woman. I always felt so comfortable knowing she was the one who was teaching and encouraging me to take further steps in my career. She really did motivate me to come out of my shell, there was a job position for Events Manager which I applied for with her help. I got the job and was so grateful to her for being so helpful."
Learning about black women's contributions
Speaking of resources to learn more about Black women's contributions, Neyat emphasizes: "The online world is full of some amazing facts about Black women, so many podcasts are available to listen to. We really have come a long way, and people are listening/reading to more content. There are also a lot of events for Black women. One of my go to podcast is a ‘Diary of a CEO’ - even though he’s a Black man, he also champions issues that relate to Black women."
Celebrating Black History Month at RCP London Events
Neyat envisions a thoughtful way to celebrate Black History Month, suggesting: "I think it would be nice to see how Black women in the events industry that are in different positions come together and share their experiences of their time at work (the good and bad times). A fun fact a day would be interesting and I could learn a lot from this."
Looking ahead: The next five years
Natasha shares her future aspirations, saying: "I am about to become a mum, and so I hope in five years, I will have mastered the art of being a busy, successful working mum but also being a great mum who inspires her child. Of course, I would also love to have progressed within my role/the industry."
Neyat envisions her future, stating: "Owning a children’s events company would be my dream. I really love working with kids, so it just makes sense to combine the two.”
A celebration of Black excellence, Natasha and Neyat's stories exemplify the spirit of Black History Month. Their journeys are a source of inspiration for all, showcasing the limitless potential within the hospitality industry.