18 Women Paving the Way in Hospitality

Women are being promoted to the highest levels of hospitality—and clearing a path for others to follow in their footsteps.

18 women paving the way in hospitality - Women in lodging

The hotel industry is in a constant state of change. New technology, research, and operational efficiencies are forever being introduced. Over the past few years, another exciting change has taken place—more and more women are establishing themselves as forces to be reckoned with in the hospitality industry. Even more thrilling—it’s become the norm for these fantastic female executives to pave the way for another wave of women in lodging.

This feature spotlights 18 women from all areas of the hotel industry. Beyond the deep dives into their own career experiences, these leaders in hospitality also offer their advice for other women looking to make their way up the hotel ladder.

1Elizabeth Mullins

For Elizabeth Mullins, it was afternoon tea at The Ritz-Carlton in Boston at age five that sealed her destiny as a hotelier. She shared with LODGING the path that little girl took to her current position as Vice President, Hotels and Resorts, Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products, the people who helped her realize her dream, and her advice for women in lodging. She also reflected on how the industry has changed and described where Disney is headed. Read more here.

 

FAST FACTS

TITLE
Vice President, Hotels and Resorts, Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products

TIME WITH DISNEY
Three years

HOTEL MUST-HAVES
A great architectural presence; lobby or social space; a terrific sleep experience; strong WiFi and cell phone coverage; a great cup of coffee

FAVORITE DESTINATION
The one that I have not yet visited or explored

WHAT SHE NEVER LEAVES HOME WITHOUT
“My cell phone, and pink lip gloss.”

WHAT SHE WANTED TO BE WHEN SHE GREW UP
“A hotelier—it’s all that I have ever wanted to be.”

MANTRA/PERSONAL MOTTO
“‘Moments matter.’ Turning moments into memories is a gift, both for those who receive them and for the creator.”

 


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2Heather McCrory

Heather McCrory tells a familiar story. For the chief executive officer of Accor North and Central America, it was love at first sight—a Fairmont laundry department—while working on her summer college co-op program at Canadian Pacific Hotels (CPH). CPH went on to create Fairmont Hotels and later evolved into a company called FRHI Hotels and Resorts, which was acquired by Accor in 2016. She describes the career path that led her from that entry position and up through the ranks to her current position here.

FAST FACTS

TITLE
Chief Executive Officer, Accor, North & Central America

TIME WITH ACCOR
Three years with Accor, which acquired FRHI Hotels & Resorts, where she spent the previous 30+ years

FIRST HOTEL INDUSTRY JOB
Laundry department at Fairmont Banff Springs

HOTEL MUST-HAVES
Great light in the bathroom

FAVORITE DESTINATION
Fairmont Grand del Mar in San Diego

WHAT SHE NEVER LEAVES THE HOUSE WITHOUT
Her phone

MANTRA/PERSONAL MOTTO
“Where there is a will, there is a way.”

 


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3Danica Boyd

Most people accumulate a great many skills when working in the hotel industry, but Danica Boyd has taken having a well-rounded background to the next level. Boyd, who currently leads Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ Wyndham Garden brand, has pretty much done it all throughout her nearly 20 years with Wyndham, starting with the company during its Cendant days. She’s overseen operations, content, marketing, brand services, franchise services, and training, just to name a few. Read more.

FAST FACTS

TITLE
Brand Leader, Wyndham Garden

TIME WITH WYNDHAM
19 years

FIRST HOTEL INDUSTRY JOB
Cleaning rooms and checking in guests at a bed-and-breakfast during high school

HOTEL MUST-HAVES
Good WiFi, a firm/plump pillow, and good hot coffee

WHAT SHE NEVER LEAVES HOME WITHOUT
Keys and a smile

WHAT SHE WANTED TO BE WHEN SHE GREW UP
A journalist

MANTRA/PERSONAL MOTTO
“As you think, so shall you be.” – Bruce Lee

 


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4Rachel Humphrey

Possessing a deep understanding of the hospitality industry and its most pressing issues, Rachel Humphrey served as interim president and CEO of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) for most of this year after the January departure of Chip Rogers and up until the recent appointment of Cecil Staton. As she shared with LODGING, her involvement with AAHOA was strictly in her capacity as an attorney until 2015, when she became its vice president for franchise relations. In addition to her own path, Humphrey described some of the changes she’s seen during her 20-year involvement with the industry in general and AAHOA, in particular, and offered words of encouragement to women in lodging. Read them here.

FAST FACTS

TITLE
Interim President and CEO, AAHOA

TIME WITH AAHOA
Since 2015

HOTEL MUST-HAVES
Hot water, clean room

FAVORITE DESTINATION
Any beach

WHAT SHE NEVER LEAVES HOME WITHOUT
Espresso in the morning

WHAT SHE WANTED TO BE WHEN SHE GREW UP
Dallas Cowboys cheerleader or a trucker

MANTRA/PERSONAL MOTTO
Try to be your best self every day.

 


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5TLC Hospitality 

The idea of entering the hotel industry may be daunting, but Toya Evans says that for many aspiring hoteliers, realizing their dreams may not be as far off as they think it is. Evans and her daughters, Chanel Grant and Lauren Williamson, are co-owners of development company TLC Hospitality. When they started their hotel journey back in 2015, the trio already owned three food and beverage franchises. It was when Grant drove by an under-construction hotel and wondered what developing her own would entail that they started reaching out to hotel companies for opportunities. Read more.
 


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6Lisa Holladay

Photo by Bradford Rogne Photography

It perhaps should come as no surprise that a girl who studied literature and Shakespeare and briefly aspired to a career in the theater would end up in the rarefied world of luxury hotels and international travel. That describes Lisa Holladay, global brand leader for The Ritz-Carlton & St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, who “found herself” in luxury branding, first with Mercedes Benz, and for the past eight years with Marriott International. Read more.

 

 

FAST FACTS

TITLE
Vice President & Global Brand Leader, The Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Bvlgari Hotels & Resorts

TIME WITH MARRIOTT
Eight years

HOTEL MUST-HAVE
A well-equipped gym

FAVORITE DESTINATION
London or Paris for a quick trip, but South Africa for a real getaway

WHAT SHE NEVER LEAVES THE HOUSE WITHOUT
Her wedding band and a pair of earphones

WHAT SHE WANTED TO BE WHEN SHE GREW UP
A stage actress

MANTRA/PERSONAL MOTTO
Never forget to be grateful and always act with grace.

 


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7Sam Montross

More than 20 years ago, now CEO of Cadence Keen Innovations, Inc., Sam Montross, owned a small ski inn in Lake Tahoe, N.Y. As is typical of rentals, one of the guestrooms in this popular destination had twin beds, because, according to Montross, “You want to offer room versatility in a rental.”

Montross explains that the ever-moving furniture didn’t bother her, but the idea that guests did not sleep comfortably at her property was most definitely a concern. “I know first-hand how miserable those sort of sleeping arrangements could be.”

From the need to ensure her guests’ comfort, Montross created her first solution, the Easy King Bed Doubler, which can convert two twin mattresses into a king-sized sleeping surface. Read more.
 


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8Barbara Morrison

When asked how the industry has changed for women in lodging since starting her hospitality career, Barbara Morrison, founder and CEO of TMC Financing, said “There are more women in the industry, but not nearly as many as there should be, particularly in executive roles. While the improvement is encouraging, I’m eager for more equality in the hospitality industry, as well as commercial lending. It is important for women leaders to be mentors to new generations of women entering our industry. Support them, share your knowledge, and inspire greatness.”

FAST FACTS

TITLE
Founder & CEO, TMC Financing

TIME IN HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY
10 years

HOMETOWN
San Francisco

LEADERSHIP STYLE
Visionary who leads by example. Inspire greatness and celebrate growth.

FAVORITE TRAVEL DESTINATION
Impossible to choose just one!

WHAT SHE NEVER LEAVES THE HOUSE WITHOUT
Her Golden Doodle, Bella

PERSONAL MOTTO
“Be pathologically optimistic”

 


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9Vanessa Ogle

When Vanessa Ogle, CEO and founder of technology company Enseo, started her company almost 20 years ago, it was during a divergence period between commercial and consumer technology. Ogle says that those first few years were difficult, and that it was a challenge to get those in the industry to take her seriously. Rather than discouraging her, though, these doubters inspired Ogle to develop her business and grow her company, which, in turn, bolstered her confidence. Read more.
 
 


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10Caroline George

What advice would Caroline George, general counsel of Crescent Hotels & Resorts, give to women looking to climb the ranks in hospitality? “Remember, the hospitality industry is about people,” George said. “Focus on your communication skills, be team-oriented, acknowledge the efforts of others, and work hard. Doing so will result in happy colleagues and guests and make your leadership skills standout.”

 

FAST FACTS

TITLE
General Counsel, Crescent Hotels & Resorts, LLC

TIME IN HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY
“10 years in my current role. However, my family has been in the hospitality industry for decades. At six, I was polishing hotel-restaurant table legs, and rolling silverware.”

HOMETOWN
Fairfax, Va.

LEADERSHIP STYLE
Situational leadership. Be flexible and seek collaboration from colleagues.

FAVORITE TRAVEL DESTINATION
South Africa

WHAT SHE NEVER LEAVES THE HOUSE WITHOUT
Sunglasses

PERSONAL MOTTO
“The world belongs to the energetic.”

 


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11Carrie David 

When asked what advice she would give to women in lodging looking to climb the ranks in the industry, Carrie David, executive vice president and chief human resources officer for Interstate Hotels & Resorts, said, “If the stars don’t align the way you want, rearrange them. Women often wait to be recognized for their contributions. We assume our work speaks for itself. We have to be more purposeful about ensuring our organizations know our career aspirations and the progress we are making toward our goals. Be bold. Make your aspirations known and ask for what you want.”

FAST FACTS

TITLE
EVP & Chief Human Resources Officer, Interstate Hotels & Resorts

TIME IN HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY
10+ years

HOMETOWN
Parkersburg, W.V.

LEADERSHIP STYLE
Transformative

FAVORITE TRAVEL DESTINATION
Australia

WHAT SHE NEVER LEAVES THE HOUSE WITHOUT
Her playlist

PERSONAL MOTTO
“Create your own destiny.”

 


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12Leora Halpern Lanz, ISHC

Leora Halpern Lanz, ISHC, is program chair of the Master of Management in Hospitality at Boston University School of Hospitality Administration and principal of LHL Communications. When asked what she would say to women looking to climb the ranks in hospitality, Lanz replied, “Work hard and follow through. Have goals, but don’t plan everything out too specifically. The organic journey of where opportunities take you is what makes the ride fun and exciting. You arrive in places you may never have imagined for your career, which enables you to set new and exciting dreams and goals. Don’t ever lose that desire to keep learning.”
 


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13Shannon Knapp 

Shannon Knapp was recently named president and chief executive officer of Leading Hotels of the World. When asked what she would say to women in lodging looking to climb the ranks in their careers, Knapp said, “Be yourself and be confident that your perspective is important. Make sure to engage with other women leaders for mentoring and support. Learn from each of these women and every experience you have. Continuously seek more knowledge and develop yourself.”
 
 


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14Kelly Hoen 

“You must be passionate about what you do and that will organically come through in your communication,” said Kelly Hoen, area general manager for Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort & Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, when asked what she would say to women in lodging looking to climb the ranks in hospitality. “Be a part of significant projects and assignments, speak up, and contribute when your strengths truly support the outcomes. And always have a learning mindset! The industry changes continuously and it’s important to learn about the trends and more importantly about yourself.”
 
 


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15Kristen Richter

When asked what she would say to women in lodging looking to climb the ranks, Kristen Richter, senior vice president and chief commercial officer, Americas, Radisson Hotel Group, said, “I believe building connections and networking is an important part of success. Make the time to call a former colleague, send that message on LinkedIn, or attend a local networking event. It may seem hard or uncomfortable, but building these relationships could mean learning about a new opportunity. Most importantly, be an advocate for yourself and believe in yourself. Continue reminding the world how amazing you are.”
 


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16Erin Levzow

When asked about how the industry has changed for women in lodging, Erin Levzow, vice president of marketing for Marcus Hotels & Resorts, said, “In one of my first leadership roles I was the only executive woman on a team of only men. On the agency side, I was the only executive woman on the leadership team at that time. Currently our senior leadership is almost 50 percent women. I would be remiss to say that we still have a long way to go but we are making consistent strides towards equality not just for women but all inequalities. Unconscious bias has come to the forefront of conversations and at the end of the day we all bleed red and can celebrate our differences.”

FAST FACTS

TITLE
Vice President, Marketing, Marcus Hotels & Resorts

TIME IN HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY
13+ years

HOMETOWN
Byron, Ill.

LEADERSHIP STYLE
Situational and Servant

FAVORITE TRAVEL DESTINATION
NYC

WHAT SHE NEVER LEAVES THE HOUSE WITHOUT
Her phone

PERSONAL MOTTO
“I have two; ‘Come As You Are’ and ‘Be Your Authentic Self.’”

 


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