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Empowering Women in Hospitality: Insights from Female Leaders in London

What is working for women in hospitality, what's not and how do we move forward? In a compelling and insightful gathering at The Landmark Hotel in London, a group of influential female leaders from hotel operators and the serviced apartment sector in the UK convened to discuss pivotal aspects of the industry. Organized by Thomas Finn of Edwards & Finn, a prominent hospitality recruitment firm, the event proved to be a catalyst for candid conversations and innovative solutions addressing prevalent challenges. Discussions were led by Catt McLeod, vice president brand development, Elegant Hotel Collection, who sponsored the event at The Landmark, additionally monies were raised from attendees for A Way Out, a charity focused on providing support to vulnerable women and children who are seeking refuge as a result of domestic violence.

Edwards & Finn hertelier
The group of leaders gathered at The Landmark in London

Key highlights that emerged from this empowering exchange of ideas and experiences:

Women's Impact on Hospitality

One central theme that resonated among the attendees was the distinctive value that women bring to the hospitality sector. They emphasized women's inherent empathy and their ability to lead with emotional intelligence. Camille Lorigo, Head of Marketing at Point A Hotels, highlighted that women tend to prioritize offering opportunities and recognition to others, fostering a balanced and inclusive perspective within the industry.

Participants agreed that women possess a collaborative spirit that transcends competition, illustrated by examples like leveraging WhatsApp groups for market collaboration, as shared by Leman Selamet, commercial director - The Landmark London and group director of revenue management.

The importance of diverse viewpoints for design and spaces was stressed, as demonstrated by an example from Emma-Jayne Sherry, senior director of internal communications and engagement / chair of the Women's Network at Planet. In Emma’s previous role in commercial real estate, she was present at the opening of a building whose expensive marble floors were too noisy for heels and so shiny that they reflected up women’s skirts, putting a fine point on the significance of considering the practical aspects of environments that can be missed without women as part of the process.

Support and Empowerment Among Women

The discussion shifted toward strategies for elevating and supporting fellow female leaders. Participants underscored the importance of seeking help when needed and not perceiving it as a weakness. Emphasizing the significance of supportive company cultures over superficial gender equality checklists, they advocated for creating spaces where women feel empowered to take risks and make mistakes without fear of retribution. Caroline Esmilaire, area director revenue strategy – UK, Ireland & The Nordics at Marriott International, draws inspiration from senior leaders such as Marriott’s CFO Leeny Oberg, who encourages women to find the space to grow by taking on new responsibility.

Tori Ackling Legends Hotels
Tori Ackling, group commercial manager, Legacy Hotels & Resorts

Addressing issues such as sexism, family shaming, and the pressure on women, the leaders highlighted the necessity of calling out inappropriate behavior and fostering a workplace culture of trust and understanding. They emphasized the need to destigmatize responsibilities related to caregiving, urging women to set examples by balancing professional commitments with familial responsibilities without guilt. Tori Ackling, group commercial manager at Legacy Hotels & Resorts, shared the importance of being viewed as a provider for your family and not to apologize for work demands.

Overcoming Workplace Challenges and Setting Boundaries

The discussion delved into various workplace challenges, including the gender pay gap, long hours equating to efficiency, and setting boundaries. The attendees emphasized the need for more women in higher-paying roles and advocated for structured training and development programs tailored to women's needs.

They discussed initiatives such as women's training programs, mentorship frameworks, and strategies to improve communication skills and presentation abilities. Janel Clark , program director at HOSPA, stressed the importance of teaching women tactics which can give them the confidence to “own the room.”

“When you say no to someone, you are saying yes to yourself.”

Additionally, they emphasized the importance of establishing boundaries, respecting off-hours, and normalizing flexible work arrangements to promote a healthy work-life balance. A favorite piece of advice shared, “When you say no to someone, you are saying yes to yourself.”

Camille Lorigo, Liz Callaghan, and Jane Pendlebury HOSPA
Camille Lorigo, Liz Callaghan, and Janel Clark

Next Steps

The gathering of these influential female leaders underscored the importance of recognizing and harnessing the unique qualities and perspectives that women bring to the hospitality industry. Discussions didn't just highlight challenges but also illuminated practical strategies and solutions, emphasizing the imperative for inclusive cultures, equal opportunities, and supportive environments to enable the growth and success of women in leadership roles within the sector.

The insights shared during this event offered lots of ideas for empowering women in the hospitality industry, promoting equity, and fostering a more inclusive and supportive professional landscape for all. Thanks again to Thomas Finn and Kelly Hodgson of Edwards & Finn, and Catt McLeod, for the opportunity to take part in the day. Let’s keep the conversation going!


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