Women in hospitality leadership

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by Nimisha Patel
VUE Hotels Managing Partner
AAHOA Female Director Western Division

Is leadership an inherent quality? I don’t think so.

Whether you are a natural leader or thrown into the role, as hoteliers, we have been given a unique opportunity to lead others. From your independent property owners to your multi-million-dollar portfolio owners, we all step into a role of leadership when we enter our properties each day to serve our consumers and employees.

As a second-generation hotelier – especially as a female – I have been given the rare privilege to experience and witness first-hand the many obstacles, barriers, and successes that come with working in a male-dominated industry like hospitality. I look at my experiences and challenges as lessons learned each and every day.

As a woman in her early 20s, I felt my culture and society had already defined my role for me, one that did not involve working in my father’s industry, let alone running businesses of my own. I know there are likely many females in the industry who have faced the same setbacks but have learned to overcome them just the same. Consequently, women in our industry are more likely to face greater difficulty demanding well-earned respect, credit, and authority in the positions that they take on.

Even in 2019 − the age of feminism, the #MeToo movement, and women’s rights altogether − the hospitality industry still falls behind others in creating an inclusive workplace for women to grow and prosper. Though the industry may be moving at a slower pace, we have made incredible strides in recent years to promote women. However, there is still much work to be done.

The hospitality industry has been a male-dominated sphere for decades. Change is inevitable and often necessary in order to maintain a global market and presence. Today, there are 30 percent more females participating in our industry than ever before, according to AHLEF. This phenomenal progress is credited to the women who have refused to accept these stereotypical roles from the past. However, we women are still the minority. Thus, we must keep pushing forward.

Women’s progress in the industry must be a team effort. It cannot be achieved by women alone. The real question we should be asking is, “How do we help each other to better represent our industry and succeed as a whole?” When asking women in different roles what qualities helped them reach their goals, many responses were of a similar nature: Taking care of their guests, an entrepreneurial approach to running a hotel, and a penchant for hard work. Having diversity in our industry will only make us stronger and able to sustain success for many years to come.

Today, many organizations have implemented advocacy programs promoting more female leadership in our industry. AAHOA has allocated many of its resources and efforts into hosting numerous women’s events to engage and promote involvement and increase exposure across the nation. AHLA hosts a women’s leadership conference annually, FORWARD, to recognize women in the hospitality industry, while also championing the next generation of leaders. Several hotel brands are also beginning to promote and host events to better engage the minds of our women leaders.

All in all, these efforts are helping us move the needle in the right direction. They provide women with more exposure and greater mentorship opportunities, and they help unite us to support one another.

After all, when everyone is on the same side, we all win!

Nimisha Patel is the managing partner of VUE Hotels which owns, develops, and manages a portfolio of various brands. She currently holds a position with AAHOA as the Western Division Female Director. Nimisha resides in San Antonio and is married to Ajay Patel. They have three children, Krish, Sai, and Mira.

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