I’ve always identified as a feminist, even before I knew what the label meant or the contempt it sometimes stirs up. In fact, my first memory of putting a (very small) crack in the glass ceiling takes me back to the third grade.
This was the year in school that we got to choose instruments to play for our elementary school band. Each student tried one, and then we chose the one we liked the best. Even as a 9-year-old girl, I knew there were specific gender-oriented instruments. Girls play the clarinet; boys play the saxophone. Knowing this, I rebelled instantly, refusing to prescribe to gender roles and declared I would be playing the trumpet. Immediately, I was discouraged. My peers reminded me it was a boy’s instrument, and even my parents kindly suggested that perhaps I would prefer to play the flute like my sister.
Feeling dejected and disappointed, I channeled that into my early feminist activism. Even then I knew this was going to be a game-changing decision for my third-grade class, and I was ready to deal with the backlash. I was angry enough to defy those friends and family and opted to play the trumpet anyway—a real elementary school Rosie the Riveter.
Unfortunately, my talents waned a few years after that, and I packed away my trumpet since that pioneering day in the mid-90s. But my feminist agenda only got stronger, for better or for worse. Though I can’t say I blazed any trails for other girls feeling discriminated against their musical instrument choices, it was my first foray into feminism, which is why the “Leading Women Executives” special report we wrapped up last week was as important to me as playing the trumpet.
The initial idea was to check in on women in the industry, but it quickly evolved to profiling top executives and highlighting female-focused trends. From Nancy Johnson, who changed the industry for women by founding the AH&LA’s Women in Lodging, to international executives such as Home Inns’ May Wu, a leading woman making a name for herself in China, the pantheon of top-tier, high-achieving women in the industry was amazing.
In a seemingly male-dominated world such as the hotel industry, it was eye opening to see the women executives and senior VPs and GMs that are continuing to make strides in the industry.
And we merely scratched the surface.
The feedback was positive and enlightening, as many insiders and outsiders in the industry wanted to know more. Myrna Oakley commented, “Your June 11 Global Report on women consumers is filled with interesting statistics and trends. I’ll keep checking back for more of your articles,” while asking to continue the series. While another anonymous commentator said it was “wonderful to see so many women executives at the top of the carrer (sic) ladder.”
Not to mention the emails I received throughout the week nominating women that were making a name for themselves in the industry. These women included: Alexandra Jaritz, senior VP of brand strategy and marketing at Choice Hotels International. The daughter of a hotel GM, Jaritz grew up living in hotels in Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, India and Thailand and always considered hotels her home; Karen Whitt, president of the Hotel and Tourism Association in Turks and Caicos, as well as the GM of the country’s Regent Palms, who is the first association president to be re-elected for a second term; and GM of Dukes London Debrah Dhugga, the founding member of the Leading Ladies of London, a women-only executive group focused on bringing more women leaders into the hotel industry.
And the list goes on. The number of women pioneers in the industry is growing and helping mold the future. Of course, there’s a long way to go, as women continue to gain footing and forge a path for more females to enter the industry.
The series of profiles and stories about women’s influence is an ongoing project. Though our initial outlook was to profile women in the C-level position, with more and more influential women entering the fray, we also will look to expand our coverage. Please continue to email me at email@example.com with inspiring women and trends that are changing the course of the industry.
It’s not easy bucking tradition and changing the way people think, as a third-grade female trumpeter or a leading women executive.
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