International Women’s Day: 9 Travel Leaders Share Insights and Advice

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Today, women make up just a quarter of senior managers across the hospitality and travel sectors, according to PwC and Korn Ferry’s Women in Hospitality, Travel, and Leisure 2020 report. In recognition of International Women’s Day, women throughout the hotel and travel industries—including several women brought together for a conversation hosted by Strategic Solution Partners—comment on how hospitality is changing, why diversity matters to the success of businesses, and what advice they can offer the next generation of hotel leaders.

How the Industry Is Changing

“When I started in the industry, there was an absence of mentorship and an environment of women not being supportive of other women. I found that difficult to overcome. But I did so by always being supportive of my bosses and being adaptive.” — Caroline MacDonald, Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing, Rosewood Hotel Group

“There are more leadership roles for women, and companies are conscious of their voice and conversation with their teams. They are trying to make a difference through awareness.” — Pam Suhr, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Stanford Hotels

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“Five years ago, I couldn’t count the number of female GMs on one hand, now I can’t count on two hands the number of females coming through the ranks. Hotels now take on a different place in people’s lives, meaning they have morphed from places to sleep to luxury and lifestyle brands. This evolution has instigated a change in the types of executives hotels employ.” — Ginger Martin, General Manager, Le Meridien Dallas, The Stoneleigh

Why Diversity Matters

“A diverse team brings different perspectives and backgrounds to the table, and better decisions are made because of that. It’s a business imperative to ensure you have diversity on your team—and that also includes diversity of backgrounds, ages, ethnicities, and more, beyond gender. Another consideration is understanding your customer base. In the travel industry, women make the majority of purchasing decisions, therefore it makes good business sense to have more female leaders and investors in the travel industry.” — Bonny Simi, President, JetBlue Technology Ventures

“The Chinese believe in the philosophy of yin and yang—that the universe is composed of competing and complementary forces of dark and light, sun and moon, male and female, and that we should seek a balance between the two. On this IWD 2019, we should seek a better balance in gender diversity particularly at the leadership level in travel companies. Travel leaders need to do more than pay lip service and take sincere and sustained steps towards better balance. Women leaders everywhere need to do what they can individually and collectively to give this movement momentum, beyond this one day, and bring everyone along, men and women included.” — Siew Hoon Yeoh, Founder, Web in Travel

“If we truly want to be a customer-led organization and listen to the voice of the customer, then promoting diversity on our teams is essential. Together, men’s and women’s voices help us see the world from different perspectives, which is extremely beneficial in terms of crafting the right kind of thought leadership, obtaining better business outcomes, and earning more rewarding results for everyone involved.” — Dorothy Dowling, Chief Marketing Officer, Best Western Hotels & Resorts

“As leaders in the travel industry, we are committed to expanding people’s understanding of global cultures through travel. We know that as a worldwide company, we excel when our team reflects the diversity of the partners and customers we serve. We value the different points of view that our diverse workforce provides and are dedicated to expanding opportunities at our company to strive for more gender balance. We will continue to turn our pledges into action, mentor women in the industry, and raise our voices to support one another.” — Melissa Maher, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Innovation, Expedia Group

Advice for the Next Generation

“Work hard, learn as much as you can and more, be professional, shine above the rest without stepping on anyone else, be a team player, focus on your current position, and keep an eye on the position that you want next.” — Jacqueline Villamil, COO, Strategic Solution Partners

“When discussing starting a career, I always tout the idea of finding advocates and mentors that you trust and then seeking out roles with the best leader. Although title and job responsibilities can be very relevant, having the right leader and corresponding culture has played a more impactful role in the long-term career trajectory of most people that I know.” — Michelle Gilman Jasen, Executive Director of Hotel Sales and Marketing, AccorHotels

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