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Building International Careers: Hyatt’s Female Leadership Brings Global Perspective to the UK

Women have played an integral role in the success of Hyatt UK & Ireland, making 2024 another exciting year so far. Not only do we have highly anticipated property openings on the horizon – such as Park Hyatt London River Thames in autumn 2024, Hyatt House and Hyatt Place Leeds in 2024 or Hyatt Place Paddington and Hyatt Regency Olympia in 2025 –  we have also welcomed new colleagues to our family who are looking forward to driving success stories in their properties and to ‘caring for people so they can be their best’, which is at the core of Hyatt’s purpose.

women in leadership hyatt UK & ireland

To help deliver our ambitious goals, we are grateful to have three key female leaders among our incredible team of General Managers, who bring a wealth of experience garnered through their global experiences with Hyatt.  With careers spanning from Japan, Australia and the US, to Germany, China and Abu Dhabi to name a few, Rike Erdbrink, Assumpta McDonald, and Miriam Varoli are a true testament to Hyatt’s commitment to growth and opportunities for women within the company. 

Thank you Assumpta, Miriam and Rike for sharing a bit more about your career journeys, and valuable lessons learned along the way. I look forward to another successful year of collaboration, agility and resilience in the UK & Ireland, and I am confident we will achieve this with our talented and diverse team.

–– Arnaud de Saint-Exupéry

Area Vice President UK/IL at Hyatt Hotels Corporation

rike erdbrink hyatt

General Manager, Park Hyatt London River Thames

Rike Erdbrink's journey with Hyatt began in 2001 as an apprentice at the Park Hyatt Hamburg, igniting a career that has taken her across the globe. From trainee roles in Paris to key positions in Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, China, and Chicago, Rike has not only expanded her operational knowledge but also her cultural fluency. Now, as the pre-opening General Manager for one of Hyatt's most anticipated projects, the 203-room Park Hyatt London River Thames set to open later this year, Rike brings a wealth of experience to one of the world's most vibrant hospitality markets.

"Working across continents and various cultures has been a powerful driver for my personal career growth," Rike observes. "It has provided me with a rich network of colleagues and friends that spans the globe, deepened my understanding of different cultures and behaviors, and introduced me to various leadership approaches." She adds that her international experience has offered deeper insights into the diverse brands that Hyatt operates across markets.

As someone who has risen up the ranks at Hyatt and moved around in the process, how do you acclimate yourself during each move?

Moving is not as easy and glamorous as everyone might think. Packing up and restarting can be quite challenging as you need to rebuild everything in your new city. It's important to maintain your routine and rhythm to not lose sight of your own wellbeing. Staying connected to friends and family is crucial during these transitions. I make an effort to get out there and meet new friends as well as reconnect with old ones, which is one of the beauties of hospitality—the high chance of knowing someone almost anywhere you go. I explore the city on foot as much as possible to take it all in, learn about my new environment, and immerse myself into the local culture. I also make it a point to get to know my colleagues' favorite places in the city and observe first to understand the bigger picture before making any significant decisions."

Which has been your favorite city so far and why?

I have lived in many amazing places, but Hong Kong will always hold a very special place in my heart. I've lived there three times; it's where I truly began my career in hospitality and started learning about different cultures. The colleagues I've met there have become lifelong mentors, and the friendships I've made are incredibly strong. Hong Kong has so much to offer—from its vibrant city life to beautiful beaches, to amazing mountains and trails for hiking.

You have been instrumental in mentoring and helping female colleagues in each city, and you even started Women@Hyatt chapters in Hong Kong and Chicago. Why is supporting other women so important to you?

Women often face similar challenges in the workplace, so it's crucial to be a source of encouragement and motivation, helping them overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. By supporting the advancement of other women, we contribute to a larger movement for gender equality. This not only benefits individual women but also future generations who will inherit a more equitable workplace. Seeing other women succeed can be incredibly inspiring, especially for younger women entering the workforce. By mentoring and supporting others, we can create positive role models who pave the way for future generations.

What do you think the industry can do better to help get more women into leadership positions?

There are several ways the industry can better support women in achieving leadership roles. First, investing in development programs like Hyatt's InSpirit program is crucial. Such initiatives provide tailored training and growth opportunities for aspiring female leaders. Secondly, building a supportive culture that values and promotes diversity at all levels is essential. This includes breaking down barriers to advancement, such as offering flexible work arrangements to accommodate different personal circumstances. However, it's also important to recognize that the desire to lead must come from each individual. Success isn't handed to anyone on a silver tray; we all have to work hard for it, regardless of gender.

assumpta mcdonald hyatt

General Manager, Hyatt Regency & Hyatt House Manchester

Assumpta McDonald's journey in the hospitality industry began in a small family-run hotel in northwest Ireland, sparking a lifelong passion that catapulted her across the world. Her career trajectory took her from Ireland to Australia, where she embarked on what was meant to be a one-year adventure in Sydney in 1998. This adventure extended to twenty-one years, during which Assumpta not only excelled in her roles but also took part in major redevelopment projects and pre-opening teams, including the opening of Australia’s largest hotel. Today, she serves as the General Manager at Hyatt Regency & Hyatt House in Manchester, embodying a leadership style deeply committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“My passion for hospitality grew from my school days with a part-time multitasking position in a small family run hotel in the north west of Ireland. I was quickly hooked on the buzz of constantly working with and meeting new people while also learning the many skills needed to operate a hotel,” Assumpta shares of her entry to the industry. 

What inspired you to move to Australia and start a career in hospitality there?

My hospitality career in Australia was almost accidental. After being absolutely blown away by the hospitality scene during a vacation to America, I aimed for an international experience. So in 1998, my husband and I moved to Sydney on a backpacking holiday visa. While many of my friends enjoyed their weekends, I worked in contract cleaning at a company that had some of Sydney’s five-star hotels as clients. During this time I met some amazing Leaders who took a chance on me.  

Did you face more challenges or unconscious bias in your career in Australia compared to other places?

Challenges within hospitality exist across the globe, no matter where you are; we’re all fighting the same battles and the ‘boys club’ mentality. Historically, one of the main challenges was the number of females in senior leadership roles. I remember being the only female in the senior leadership team of ten in Sydney, which was a challenge in itself. I’d often find myself sitting in the office until 7pm on a Friday, working, whilst the guys had gone for an end of week beer in a nearby pub. 

While I may have faced some gender discrimination, I have had tremendous male allies lift me up and offer me opportunities. I fondly remember returning from vacation in 2005 to my role as Executive Housekeeper in Sydney, when I received a calendar invite from my (male) General Manager to meet. Initially I was confused at the purpose of the meeting, did he want to hear about my holiday? Instead, he revealed that a pre-opening Director of Rooms role was opening up within the company in New Zealand. He wanted to put me forward for the position – and asked if I would consider the move. Was I willing to take the risk? The following weekend, I was on a flight to Auckland to see the hotel for myself, the next month I’d accepted the job and was moving my life to New Zealand.  He gave me my first big real big opportunity in hospitality, and to this day, I am grateful he believed in me. 

You have advocated for women on your teams in both countries, what challenges do you think women still face?

I am a huge believer that the correct person for the job should be hired – and not as a tick box exercise of being a woman to make up the %. Both males and females should be rewarded and recognised for hard work within hospitality, removing all other factors out of the equation. Having said that, For women, the ability to manage work and family responsibilities while maintaining a meaningful career is challenging. Working  from home is not always possible, so we need to have an open mindset that supports flexibility and inclusivity for all to succeed.  

I've always been an advocate for women, mentoring both male and female emerging talent. At Hyatt, I'm involved in the InSpirit Female Mentorship Programme, which aims to strengthen the pipeline of emerging female leaders and support our colleagues in fulfilling their leadership aspirations.

miriam varoli hyatt

General Manager, Andaz London Liverpool Street

Miriam Varoli's 25-year career with Hyatt began in housekeeping at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne in Australia. Her journey took her across the globe, rising through the ranks in Cairo, Singapore, Osaka, and Kyoto, and involving her in special projects for the Hyatt Asia Pacific leadership team in Hong Kong. Since the end of last year, as General Manager of Andaz London Liverpool Street, Miriam has brought her extensive experience and a holistic leadership style to the 267-room hotel, which features five F&B outlets and 15 meeting spaces. Her return to London, where she once worked at the Ritz in Mayfair, marks a full-circle moment in her distinguished hospitality career.

“Without seeing women in GM roles in the early stages of my career, it was hard to even imagine myself there. However, the absence of female GMs fueled my determination to break barriers and pave the way for future generations,” Miriam shares. So, who inspired her? “My father once told me, ‘Life is not about taking 'no' for an answer. It's about finding a way to make 'yes' happen.’ That became my mantra. He also inspired me to learn hospitality like a language, to anticipate needs, and to go above and beyond.”

How does your international background influence your leadership style?

Working in vastly different cultures has been a valuable experience. It has shaped my approach to communication, decision-making, and team management. I believe that leaders who embrace this experience can be more effective in leading diverse teams and navigating the global hospitality landscape in a more holistic way.

What excites you most about being back in London?

There is a sense of accomplishment and nostalgia returning to the city where I took my first steps in hospitality. Returning to London has given me a chance to leverage the knowledge I have gained over the years and take on new challenges. I see the city in a whole new light and it has reignited my passion for creativity.

How has the industry changed for women since you started?

Traditionally, leadership roles in hotels were dominated by men. Today, we see more women in executive positions like general managers, asset managers, owners etc. This improved access to leadership allows women to shape the industry and create a more inclusive culture. There's a growing awareness of work-life balance, flexible work arrangements, parental leave policies, and work from home options, allowing women to manage their careers alongside personal responsibilities.

Best career advice from all three leaders for women starting out:

  1. Believe in Yourself and Take Risks: Be ready to step out of your comfort zone and take calculated risks to stand out and shine. Your ability to take on challenges will often distinguish you in your career.

  2. Communicate Your Aspirations: Don't keep your career goals a secret. Make sure your managers and key stakeholders know where you want to go. Persistence is crucial, so if you encounter setbacks, don’t give up.

  3. Embrace International Opportunities: The hospitality industry is globally interconnected. Seizing opportunities to work internationally can provide invaluable experience and expose you to new cultures and business practices.

  4. Build a Strong Support Network: Surround yourself with a network of supportive colleagues and mentors. This network should include both women and men who can provide guidance, advocate for you, and help celebrate your successes.

  5. Find Your Voice and Be Willing to Make Sacrifices: The hospitality industry thrives on fresh ideas and unique perspectives. Don’t be afraid to speak up and share your thoughts. Additionally, be prepared to make personal sacrifices when necessary, understanding that short-term trade-offs will lead to long-term gains.

  6. Explore and Diversify Your Experience: The hospitality sector offers a wide range of career paths, from sales and marketing to revenue management and event planning. Explore different areas to find what truly ignites your passion, and don’t shy away from pursuing experiences across roles.

  7. Pick a Company That Matches Your Values: It’s important to work somewhere that gets you, where the values click with your own, and allows you to be your authentic self. This fit will make a huge difference in how happy you feel at work and how much you can achieve.

Hyatt UK & Ireland


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