Hooked on Hospitality

Kristie Dickinson, Managing Director, EVP, CHMWarnick

Kristie Dickinson

What initially inspired you to get into the hospitality business? I caught the travel bug early in life. My father worked for an airline, so our travel depended entirely on the standby list and which flights we could get on to with his travel vouchers. My curiosity in travel led me to my first hotel job while in high school, where I started at as a PBX operator (remember those!). The hotel was owned by Nestle Corporation, so the free chocolate didn’t hurt either. I was also fortunate to work for a female General Manager, a rarity that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time, and she took me under her wing. Over the course of my two years at that hotel, I gained experienced in nearly every operating department. Needless to say, I was hooked.

Who were some of your mentors or role models, male or female, and what were their most valuable lessons? I’ve been fortunate to have many mentors and work with incredible leaders over the course of my hospitality consulting career, both female and male. For starters, my mother—although not in the hospitality industry—was in a profession where females were outnumbered 20:1. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now looking back I greatly admire her courage and determination to pursue a career that she was passionate about regardless of the odds. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from my career mentor of 20-plus years was simply to say “yes” to every and all opportunities that came my way. Be open and don’t think about all of the reasons why you may not be ready…trust your instincts and rise to the challenge. She also stressed the importance of giving back and paving a path for others. 

In your opinion, how is the lodging industry doing in terms of getting women into leadership positions? The statistics speak for themselves, and we still have a long way to go. That being said, the industry is actively tracking statistics now around women and minority representation in executive roles, as well as speaking and attendance at major industry conferences. Having a baseline to measure against and enhancing awareness is thanks in large part to groups leading the charge, such as Castell Project (now an AH&LA Foundation Project), She Has a Deal (SHaD) and now many of the major brands, which are more focused than ever on bringing women and minorities into leadership and also into ownership. I am also encouraged by many industry organizations that are focused on creating more diverse and inclusive communities, including the ISHC (International Society of Hospitality Consultants), for which I serve on a board equally represented by women and men.       

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