CYBER HITEC: Takeaways from Women in Hospitality Technology

On the last day of CYBER HITEC 2020, in a panel titled “How Women in Hospitality Technology Shape the Industry,” four female hospitality and technology experts shared their journeys, achievements, and challenges from their careers. Led by Devin Thiele, a business intelligence analyst for Datavision Technologies, the panelists included: Anja Luthje, founder and CEO of Unique Hospitality Solutions; Mercedes DeLuca, CIO of Pebble Beach Company; Peggy Berg, chair of Castell Project, Inc.; and Yvette Vincent from Delaware North Companies, Inc.

When discussing their hopes for the future of the hospitality industry—including how technology fits into those hopes—Luthje said that her wish is “for the hotel industry to create careers and not just jobs.” Especially in technology, the IT team is usually outsourced from other companies instead of coming from the hotel. She hopes that the industry could “change that and actually groom people, develop them, hire executive officers whilst they’re working with us and make a career in our industry. I think that is what I would really love to see in the future of our industry.”

Vincent hopes the industry shifts to keep up with the ever-changing technology in our world. She said that guests who stay at hotels “are using space differently.” She adds that “most guests have more devices that most hotels can keep up with.” And to keep pace with those guests, she said, the hotel industry needs to update its service models and reservation systems to reflect the needs of guests that might not need to stay at the hotel for extended periods of time, but rather need just a few hours to regroup.

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DeLuca thinks the future of technology and hospitality are moving toward “allowing the guest to choose how and when they would like to interact with us.” DeLuca has seen technology as a more back-of-house operation that is now being brought to guests. While individual guests might or might not want to use technology to enhance their stays, it is important for technologists in hospitality to figure out how to “deliver on the ultimate luxury.”

Specifically, for women in hospitality technology, Luthje thinks the hotel industry can better support women who are starting families and having children. “[Women] shouldn’t have to make a decision between a career or family. You can do it, you can do it together, but it would sure be nice if there was some sort of recognition and support from the corporation you work with,” Luthje said

Berg noted that the Castell project works uses data and statistics to “figure out where to take the industry in a realistic and practical way.” Berg wants the industry to bring women into hospitality leadership positions and give them the confidence to reach higher goals.  Some statistics she shared included “that 67 percent of hospitality college majors are women and only five percent of the hospitality CEOs are women. I know that the odds for Black women of making it to the VP level are one to 198. I know that only seven percent of hotel companies CIOs are women, and only 15 percent of hotel companies CTOs are women.”

Amid a global pandemic, civil unrest, and a number of natural disasters, the United States is in the middle of a nation-wide shift. “There’s movements to embrace all people, all religions, all races, all preferences,” Vincent said. And because of this, DeLuca hopes the hotel industry shifts to reflect those movements. “Rethinking the hotel experience to value all people might be architectural changes to create welcoming, safe, and inclusive spaces.”

 


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