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Empowering Women@Hyatt: One Year of Inclusivity & Impact

A year ago, Hyatt UK & Ireland made a deeper commitment to women and inclusivity with the re-launch of Women@Hyatt UK as a Diverse Business Resource Group for its properties. We chat with Women@Hyatt co-chairs Mélissa Brette Ogée and Gabrielle Desroches Hutchison to learn about their process in re-launching the group and how they have cultivated an active network for women colleagues. Spoiler: highlights of the year include their vibrant International Women's Day event and collaborations with hertelier (whoop whoop!). The chapter’s approach extends beyond internal events, addressing intersectionality with events for Black History Month and LGBTQIA+ representation. We also find out what's coming up next for Women@Hyatt in 2024 and they offer advice for other companies looking to invest more in women. Let's jump into it! 

Women@Hyatt Hyatt UK & Ireland
Ella's volunteering crew from Hyatt UK & Ireland

What inspired the Women@Hyatt chapter and what were you aiming to achieve?

Melissa: Women@Hyatt is a global Diverse Business Resource Group (also known as a “chapter” within Hyatt) that any Hyatt colleague is welcome to join. The chapter was first set up globally in the US from our Chicago Office, then on a regional basis from Zurich, and later on launched in the UK. The aim of the chapter is to cultivate and maintain an active network; fostering a culture supporting a gender diverse and inclusive workplace; in specific to support the needs and advancement of colleagues identifying as women at Hyatt. 

Each region has their own chapter, and we are one of them, with myself at its Chair, and Gabrielle as Co-Chair. We are very proud of counting a team of over 20 active members across the region. Our UK chapter is split in three working groups, each focusing on one specific angle: Awareness, Development and Networking. We are so grateful to work alongside some incredible pillar leads; Rebecca Maher for Development, Francesca Coluzzi for Networking and Elodie Roulleau for Awareness. And not to forget Federica Cantarini who was instrumental in launching our podcast, SheSpeaks. This is also a special milestone for us as, we are celebrating one year since re-launching our chapter in the UK!

Gabrielle: we meet once a month to discuss ongoing projects and brainstorm on the next activities. It’s a great way to bring an amazing community together and to feel energised.

Looking back on one year, what aspects of the chapter are you most proud of?

Gabrielle: There are a few and it’s not easy to choose! Our International Women Day event was definitely a highlight, as it was our first in-person event since before Covid. We had colleagues coming from all corners of the UK and beyond. The panel was inspiring and lively – thank you again Emily for moderating it! 

After the event, we sent a survey out to all participants asking for their feedback. It was also the opportunity to gauge what our colleagues would like to hear about, and how best to convey this message. The information we collected paved the way for a range of initiatives throughout the year – one of my favourite being a volunteering day with the brilliant charity Ella’s, which supports women survivors of human trafficking and exploitation.

Last, but not least, we’ve also loved collaborating with Hertelier this year, and the Sunday round-up newsletter is something we look forward to every week.

Women@Hyatt co-chairs Mélissa Brette Ogée and Gabrielle Desroches Hutchison

Melissa: I want to mention our most recent project, led by our Networking sub-group, which was the launch of our podcast, “She speaks”. As Gabrielle said, following the post-International Women’s Day event survey, we realised that our team members were eager to hear about success stories of women from different backgrounds and industries. Our first guest speaker was Emily Keogh, an award-winning entrepreneur who launched her own PR agency at the age of 24 – it was an amazing interview! We made the conscious choice of sticking to a short format; 5 questions which will remain the same for all interviewees, starting with asking them what their favourite feminist quote is, just to, you know, set the tone. 

You kicked off the year with an event for International Women's Day (which I was so excited to participate in - the mood in the room was amazing!), what other events has Women@Hyatt held to engage the women in your hotels?

Melissa: It was amazing to have you moderate our panel Emily, we loved having you. Thank you also for sharing your predictions and insights for women in hospitality in 2024.

One piece of feedback that we were given by our colleagues is actually that the teams are keen to see representation in our initiatives. This brought up a very relevant topic, which is the one of intersectionality.

Black History Month employee event with Be Inclusive Hospitality Hyatt UK & Ireland
Black History Month employee event with Be Inclusive Hospitality

Black History Month this year was a great opportunity for us to explore this, with its theme: Celebrating our Sisters. It gave us the possibility to cross the realities of gender and ethnicity, and to open the discussion. We were very lucky to be able to organise a workshop with Lorraine Copes, from Be Inclusive Hospitality, who designed the workshop to be both educational and engaging.

Our first article with Hertelier was also a great example of intersectionality. We spotlighted one of our colleagues earlier this year for Lesbian Visibility Week, in collaboration with our LGBTQIA+ working group, HyPride. This allowed us to also raise awareness on the crossed realities, often mistaken, gender and sexual orientation. 

Gabrielle: Some of our events have also had an impact beyond our hotels and teams. Care is at the heart of everything we do at Hyatt – our company’s purpose is to ‘Care for people so they can be their best’ – and as such, we strive to support charities in our communities that are dedicated to supporting the wellbeing and welfare of women. 

With our UK chapter, I mentioned earlier, we volunteered with Ella’s.  We joined their team and helped with decorating and furnishing  their brand-new safe house, ready to welcome its first residents. Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill also regularly collaborates with the Marylebone Project, a local charity that provides a life-changing service for homeless women and is the largest and longest-running centre of its kind in London and the UK. The team at The Churchill offers various kinds of support: direct support through donations, volunteering and social activities, but also longer-term support – by creating opportunities to help the women residents develop new skillsets and confidence, and ultimately, lead to financial independence. 

From L to R: Melissa Brette Ogee, Gabrielle Hutchinson, Jeanne Aikman Hyatt UK & Ireland
International Women's Day 2023

What learnings can you offer for other companies looking to establish a chapter for women? And what is next?

Melissa:  One of the things we always clarify when introducing our Women@Hyatt chapter, is that this group exists to improve equality and equity, for all genders. This is why we also aim to also focus on other gender realities as well. For the month of November our awareness group prepared, for the second year in a row, a newsletter on the notion of gender, from encouraging colleagues to grow their moustaches to support the Movember movement, to explaining why International Men’s Day exists (on November 19th by the way). 

If I had to pick only one focus for next year, it would be to raise awareness on Women’s health. Equity starts by recognising our differences and adapting our approach accordingly. There is a need to open the conversation on how different we are and how our differences may impact our women’s colleagues and their (work) life, whether it be menstrual cycles or the menopause. 

Gabrielle: Having a chapter is a great way to recognise and celebrate diversity within companies. It allows everyone, with no exception, to feel accepted and to be able to voice ideas on topics that are close to their hearts. Companies that facilitate this kind of empowerment are paving the way for inclusive environments and highly engaged teams in our opinion.

In terms of structure, working in sub-groups has helped boost our outcomes. Each working group is smaller in size and allows for a more hands-on approach and better action-taking. Our working group leads ensure that the projects are on track and update the rest of the chapter during our monthly team calls.

There is also a natural tendency to try and run as many activations as possible, but obviously it takes a lot of effort and planning and so it’s better to do fewer and maximise resources to make our activities as impactful as possible.

We are excited about what lies ahead in 2024 and look forward to sharing the exciting projects we are working on – including a mentorship programme for our UK hotels (thanks to our Development working group), which we hope to launch in the first half of next year.

We will also look to broaden our focuses to include important topics such as women and Sustainability and collaboration with various organisations to support women into employment in our industry. 

Thank you, Gabrielle and Melissa, it all sounds so exciting! Congratulations on all you have achieved this year.

Hyatt UK Ireland Women@haytt

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