15 Women Making Their Mark in Hospitality


According to a recent survey from the Castell Project in partnership with Georgia State University, 53 percent of women either agreed or strongly agreed that having had a mentor or advocate during their career was a positive influence on their career progress. The women featured in LODGING’s September 2017 issue, while from vastly different areas of the hospitality industry, were all quick to mention mentors as an integral part of their career trajectories, as well as tout the importance of acting as an advocate for other women in the industry. Today, women in hospitality are making opportunities for the female workforce and taking steps to become the next generation of mentors.

Below are 15 women who are making their mark in hospitality.


Lara LattureLara Latture
Chief Operating Officer, The Hotel Group


“You have to be comfortable with letting people make mistakes—it’s necessary to how they learn and grow.”

Fast Facts

Education: Began a degree in Marketing and Communications at the University of Tennessee

If she could go anywhere tomorrow, where would she go? Fiji or Paris, her favorite spot

What did she want to be when she grew up? A country singer or a broadcaster

Coffee or Tea? Coffee



Cate Farmer
GM of Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort


Fast Facts

Hometown: Hartland, Wis.

Education: University of Wisconsin, Madison, Journalism and Political Science

Leadership style: Accessible, approachable, genuine

Best advice she ever received: “Learn to work in the gray.”

Read about Farmer’s career path to her current position here.



Janis CannonJanis Cannon
Senior Vice President of Upscale Brands at Choice Hotels International

“You don’t build brands without people.”

Fast Facts

Education: B.F.A., Valdosta State University

What she never leaves the house without: “My mother’s wedding band. It grounds me in gratitude and the things that really matter.”

Best advice she ever received: To be fearless. “When my first GM opportunity came along, I thought, ‘I haven’t done that.’ A very wise man told me, ‘There’s a first for everybody.’”

Best part about working in hospitality: Seeing somebody start out in an entry-level position and helping them along the way to achieve their dream and reach their potential.



Erica HagemanErica Hageman
Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Interstate Hotels & Resorts

“Build relationships. This is a really small industry, but it’s an industry of great people who want to help you succeed.”

Fast Facts

Education: Undergrad at University of Florida; law degree from The George Washington University

Best advice she ever Received: “Never walk into a meeting without a pad of paper and a pen.”

What she never leaves the house without: Her cell phone

If she could go anywhere tomorrow, where she would go: A cycling trip through Italy and France, stopping for really good food and wine along the way.



Julie Coker GrahamJulie Coker Graham
President & CEO, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau

“I’ve been fortunate over my 30-plus year career in hospitality and tourism to experience great wins as well as losses. My greatest accomplishment is leading a great team as the first female president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished as a team over the past 14 months.”

Fast Facts

Education: Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management

First Hospitality Industry Job: Waitress at Mr. Steak in Wilmington

What she never leaves the house without: Cell phone

What she wanted to be when she grew up: A corporate attorney doing huge mergers and acquisitions



Lisa ChecchioLisa Checchio
Senior Vice President of Global Brands, Wyndham Hotel Group

“As a leader, I work to cultivate a high-energy, team-centric environment. I’m the type of person who is inspired by the possibility and the positivity of the people around me and lead by example. To really make a difference, you have to first believe that you can make a difference and have creative freedom and ownership to do so. If I can keep my team excited to come to work, free of roadblocks and with the resources they need to be successful, then there are no limits to what we can do together.”

Fast Facts

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Business Administration from The George Washington University

First Hotel Industry Job: “This one. It was worth the wait!”

What she never leaves the house without: “Telling my kids and husband I love them and a strong cup of coffee.”

What she wanted to be when she grew up: A marine biologist

Favorite place she’s traveled to: Mambajao, Camiguin Island in the Philippines. “It’s where my father is from. It’s a dot on most maps, but one of the most important places in the world to me.”



Jagruti PanwalaJagruti Panwala
President and CEO of Wealth Protection Strategies and Treasurer of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA)

“Women are movers. Women are shakers. Women get things done.”

Fast Facts

Education: B.A., Finance and Economics, East Stroudsburg University

What she never leaves the house without: A nice pair of shoes

Best part about working in hospitality: The people

Best advice she ever received: Always be prepared.



Krissy GathrightKrissy Gathright
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Apple Hospitality REIT

“The greatest challenges of my career were navigating through the recessions following 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis. Our solid working relationships with our third-party management companies and Hilton and Marriott helped us power through and make the adjustments that were needed to weather the short-term downturns and continue to provide attractive returns to shareholders. We learned valuable lessons that are incorporated into our current strategy.”

Fast Facts

Education: Bachelor of Science in Commerce from the University of Virginia

First hospitality industry Job: Asset Manager for Apple Suites, Inc., the first of the Apple REITs

What she wanted to be when she grew up: An attorney

Best advice she ever received: Set sights on a goal, work hard, and make it happen.



Natalie NorcrossNatalie Norcross
Founder and CEO of A Design Partnership

“I had to learn the importance of staying focused on a vision early on. As a startup company, it can be hard in the beginning to have a clear idea of your purpose. But it’s really important to create a vision because as you bring more people on board, you will encounter different personalities and individuals who have different ideas for the company. If your vision and purpose are not crystal clear, the company will suffer in the long run and create chaos in the organization.”

Fast Facts

Education: Studied Interior Architecture at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising

First Hospitality Industry Job: Started Distinctive Design Co., a full-service interior architecture design company that she sold in 2008.

What she never leaves the house without: Laptop, sunglasses, and coffee.



Vicki PoulosVicki Poulos
Senior Global Brand Director, Moxy Hotels

“I’ve learned it’s okay and sometimes necessary to challenge the accepted standards of people who have been in the industry for a long time.”

Fast Facts

Education: Bachelor of Liberal Arts, DePaul University; currently enrolled at Parsons School of Design for a Masters in Science in Strategic Design and Management

Hometown: Chicago

Hotel must-haves: Whether it’s for business or leisure, a hotel has to have a great vibe, design, location, and technology that keeps me connected and productive.

Favorite place traveled to: Spain

Best advice she ever received: “A mentor once told me that sometimes I will need to ask myself and others this question: ‘Should I lower my standards or should you raise yours?’”



Alexandra JaritzAlexandra Jaritz
Global Head, Tru by Hilton

“Launching Tru by Hilton on a very aggressive timeline was the biggest challenge of my career. The Tru brand concept was introduced at ALIS in January 2016, and we celebrated our first grand opening in Oklahoma City just 16 months later. We pulled the right team together, and it was an incredibly collaborative process—it had to be, to ensure all pistons were firing at the same time. The sense of urgency inspired us and kept us questioning and challenging throughout the process, ultimately leading to a brand that upends the status quo. We all grew immensely from that experience.”

Fast Facts

Education: Bachelor of Science in Hotel Administration from Cornell University; Master of Business Administration from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business; Certification from University of Virginia Darden School’s Executive Education Course in Leadership; Certification from Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Course in Strategic Marketing Management

First Hospitality Industry Job: Summer internship at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C., through the Cornell hotel administration program

What she never leaves the house without: Her favorite photo of her husband and daughter

Favorite place traveled to: Thailand. “I grew up there between the ages of 9 and 18. My dad was a hotelier, which gave my family the opportunity to live in and get to know many different parts of the world.”



Pamela BarnhillPam Barnhill
President and COO of InnSuites Hospitality Trust, InnSuites Hotels, IBC Hospitality Technologies

“I’m very collaborative and analytical. Earlier in my career, I took a lot of feedback to heart. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned what pieces to take in and what pieces to let go. I really enjoy learning other people’s perspectives and bringing those into decisions. I don’t believe in making a decision and pushing it on others. It’s my job to take everyone’s ideas and make sure that they are part of the overall team decision.”

Fast Facts

Education: Bachelors of Arts in Economics / Math from the University of Arizona; Master of Business Administration from Carnegie Mellon University

First Hospitality Industry Job: Front Desk

What she never leaves the house without: Cell phone

Her childhood idol: “I always really looked up to my dad. He was my cheerleader growing up.”

Where she would travel to tomorrow: “I love Nepal and Thailand but on my short list is to trek and safari in Africa.”



Melissa MagnusonMelissa Magnuson
Chairman, Magnuson Worldwide

“I think you have to nurture and mentor people and give them the opportunity to develop in their own right. But you have to do that with strength and with specific expectations. When expectations are not met, you do have to come back and discuss that with strength. It’s a balancing act. I don’t think that being an authoritative dictator works. I don’t think you get the best results that way.”

Fast Facts

Education: Bachelors of Fine Arts from Goldsmiths University, London; Masters of Fine Arts from Royal College of Art, London

First Hospitality Industry Job: Creative Director of an advertising agency in the northwestern U.S. working with hotel clients

What she never leaves the house without: A prioritized agenda

Where she would travel to tomorrow: “I am traveling to China in November and would love to go tomorrow. Other than that, Italy is always a favorite destination!”



Terri HaackTerri A. Haack
President, Terranea Resort

“You can’t be successful in business and not see the big picture.”

Fast Facts

Education: B.S. in Business Administration and M.A. in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix; Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA) certification

First hospitality industry job: Working at the concourse snack bar at the old Denver Stapleton Airport in Colorado

What she wanted to be when she grew up: “I’ve wanted to be in hospitality since I was 11 years old.”

Favorite place she’s ever been: The Colorado mountains



Wendy StevensWendy Stevens
Executive Vice President of First Hospitality Group

“When I first got into the business, I was a young director of sales at 25 and a general manager at 28. I had this chip on my shoulder where I had to prove myself. I had to work a ton of hours and I had to be heard, and it was just too much because I drove the team hard and had to overcome that. I finally had a mentor say, “You already have this position, you don’t need to keep proving yourself.” What I’ve worked on is softening as I’ve gone through years of my career.”

Fast Facts

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality Management

First hospitality industry job: Front Desk

Her childhood idol: Wonder Woman

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