Hotel industry leadership insights for IWD 2023

In celebration of International Women’s Day next week, Marriott Hotels of Canada asked a few of its associates to reflect on their careers, describe the challenges they needed to overcome to be successful, and what advice they would give to young women interested in pursuing a career in their given fields.

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International Women’s Day is all about promoting a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive. What barriers did you face in your career? How did you break them?

“Throughout my career, I have been rejected for certain roles and although I was disappointed at first, I did not give up. I knew what I needed to work on to continue my journey and kept on trying. I believe in hard work, and I took every opportunity that was presented to me. I was not afraid of trying new things, taking on new projects and even relocating to a different city to get the job I wanted. If you focus on improving yourself, the opportunity will come at the right time.”

“I believe there should never be gender to any role. I am also a minority but working for Marriott never made me feel that I would be at a disadvantage.”

-Rita Yao, Director of Finance, W Toronto

You’re in a senior position with Marriott that isn’t typically served by women. How did you overcome the stereotypes in a male-dominated role?

“I will admit, there have been a few times during my career in Engineering where I have felt that I don’t belong. Sometimes it has been due to my own self-criticism and other times it came from outside sources. To overcome these stereotypes, I learned (and am still learning) to speak up louder, trust myself and my instincts and try not to take things personally. I have also tried to look at the people or situations that are creating these barriers as teachers, rather than roadblocks. Instead of allowing them to make me feel less worthy, I focus on what I can learn from them and how I can grow.”

-Lori Johnson, Chief Engineer (Hotels), JW Marriott Parq Vancouver and The Douglas, Autograph Collection

How do you juggle the demands of work and life? What do you do to find balance?

“I am still working on this, but the pandemic really put things into perspective. I had to leave my job and home in the United States to make the right choice for my family and I was lucky to rejoin the Marriott team in Canada. Finding the balance between work and life is hard, but prioritizing myself makes me a much better mom, wife and professional. To give a simple example, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to catch an earlier train and spend more time at home every night… it might not seem like a lot, but that extra hour for my daughter makes a huge difference, makes me happier and translates into a much healthier work-life balance.”

-Barbara Barham Warman, Director of Finance & Accounting, Marriott Downtown at CF Toronto Eaton Centre

What advice would you give young women interested in pursuing a career in hospitality (your area of expertise in particular)?

“When I was starting out, the biggest challenges I had to overcome were the stereotypes I had created for myself. I used to think that I couldn’t do the job because I am female and all General Managers at the time were men. Or I can’t be a General Manager because I’m not good at finance or have a family at home.”

“My advice to young women is take lots of calculated risks, find mentors and advocates, be a community builder, don’t be shy about admitting you don’t know something and be willing to tell people your goals. Just because you can’t check every box on the job description, doesn’t mean you aren’t ready. And, have fun….it’s a fun career!”

-Jennifer Worden, General Manager, Toronto Marriott Markham

“Arianna Huffington has an incredible quote that reads ‘we need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.’ I think back to that often. We all have good days and bad, but it’s important we turn our bad days into learning opportunities that will lead to future success. That’s what makes a strong leader. Someone who is not afraid to make mistakes, be vulnerable enough to make those mistakes in front of their team and demonstrate how they learn and grow from them.”

-Dianne Kostopoulos, Director of Security, The Westin Harbour Castle, Toronto

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