Stories of strength


Opening Doors for Women in Hospitality

March is Women’s History Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the contributions of women across the U.S. and the world. While hospitality historically has been male-dominated, at the management level, women hoteliers have made significant strides in the industry. In fact, today, of nearly 20,000 AAHOA Members, nearly 45% are women.

While there still is much work to be done, change is brewing. According to the 2022 report from the Castell Project, women now hold one leadership spot for every 10 men in hotel company leadership (CEO, president, founder, etc.), an improvement from one to 11 in 2019. During Women’s History Month, we reflect on how far the women of AAHOA have come and pay homage to those who pioneered gender equality, inclusion, and women’s participation in the association, which celebrated its 30-year anniversary in 2019.


priti patel

Priti Patel, First Woman Elected to the AAHOA Board

There’s never been a doubt that women are an essential part of hotel businesses. They have worked the front desk, cleaned rooms, prepared meals for guests, and more, all while raising and leading a family. Day in and day out, without fail, they showed up, no matter how tired they felt. During the years, many hard-working and dedicated women have taken on critical leadership roles at AAHOA and paved the way for future generations to have more opportunities.

jagruti panwala

Jagruti Panwala, AAHOA Chair (2019-20)

AAHOA Member Priti Patel, who has more than three decades of experience in hospitality, became the first woman elected to the AAHOA Board of Directors in the late ’90s. During her tenure, Priti was instrumental in helping AAHOA host its first women’s conferences in 1998 in Atlanta and San Francisco, with more than 1,000 attendees at each meeting. It was a step forward in bridging the gap between generations and helping women take a more active role in the industry.

Those big steps forward continued to break ground at AAHOA. In 2019, Jagruti Panwala made history as the first woman to lead AAHOA as Chairwoman. A natural leader, Jagruti already was blazing a path in the association when she became the first woman officer in 2016.

AAHOA Women weigh in

Today’s women hoteliers thank the trailblazing women who paved the way forward at AAHOA and in the industry at large.

arti patel

Arti Patel, AAHOA Central Midwest Regional Director

Central Midwest Regional Director Arti Patel, the first woman to hold the role in the Central Midwest Region and a second-generation hotelier, recognizes the efforts made before her.

“I thank women leaders for standing up and representing so many women who may not have had the ability to do so,” Arti said. “Let’s keep paving the way.”




tulsee nathu

Tulsee Nathu, AAHOA Lifetime Member

AAHOA Lifetime Member Tulsee Nathu, a fourth-generation hotelier with multi-faceted experience ranging from operations, development, and industry activism, also takes note of past work to increase women’s participation.
“The courageous undertaking in a male-dominated field from forward-thinking women hoteliers is admirable and inspirational,” Tulsee said.




shila patel

Shila Patel, AAHOA Member

AAHOA Member Shila Patel, a hotel general manager for 30 years, stands on the shoulders of those who came before her. Today, she shares ideas and advocates for women hoteliers during industry panel discussions and events. “I know I can do it because they have done it. Their inspiration and confidence are everything to me,” Shila said.



hemlata patel

Hemlata Patel, AAHOA Member

Achieving hotel ownership can be an exhilarating journey full of anxiety and uncertainty. That’s why AAHOA Member and hotel owner Hemlata Patel encourages the next wave of women hoteliers never to give up.
“Women are known always to work hard and give it their all,” Hemlata explained. “No matter how big or small your goal may seem, chase it.”

HerOwnership Opens Ownership Doors
Today, more women are gaining direction, momentum, and connections from their engagement with AAHOA. That’s why last year, AAHOA launched the HerOwnership: Opening Doors for Women in Hospitality, an initiative to elevate, educate, and empower the women hoteliers of AAHOA and across the industry.

“The initiative will help women with the bigger picture of their business. This opportunity can empower women with knowledge, undertake business-shifting decisions, and help position generational family businesses for success,” explained AAHOA Member Shila Patel.

“The HerOwnership platform gives women the confidence and opportunity to take their career and personal goals to the next level,” said AAHOA Member Shila Patel.

aahoa women in leadership both current and past gather at the herownership conference and retreat in october 2022

AAHOA women in leadership, both current and past, gather at the HerOwnership Conference & Retreat in October 2022.

Bringing business-minded women together will be a powerful way to stay fresh and innovative as a hotel owner.

“While women have come a long way, initiatives such as HerOwnership will help women become more engaged,” explained Central Midwest Regional Director Arti Patel. “They will network and speak about ideas or even past issues with other like-minded hoteliers.”

“The HerOwnership initiative motivates and encourages women to help achieve their goal to become hotel owners,” said AAHOA Member Hemlata Patel.
To help launch the HerOwnership initiative, AAHOA hosted an inaugural HerOwnership Conference & Retreat last October in Cincinnati, OH. Hundreds of women interested in learning more about hotel ownership, or further crafting their skills in hotel ownership, showed up and left the event empowered to take the next step in their careers.
AAHOA has plans to do it again in the fall of 2023, so stay tuned to learn more, and be sure to join us in Los Angeles for AAHOACON23, where there will be several HerOwnershipdriven events, workshops, and learning sessions created just for women hoteliers.
Today’s women hoteliers are bolder and more empowered to become immersed in hospitality. AAHOA is proud to champion the advancement of women during Women’s History Month, and is grateful to every woman who has contributed to the organization and left it better for the generations to follow.

Be sure to join us in Los Angeles for AAHOACON23, where there will be several HerOwnership-driven events, workshops, and learning sessions created just for women hoteliers.

lina patel

Lina Patel, Female Director Eastern Division

“Women play an active role in all areas of hospitality – from welcoming guests at the front desk to providing the best in housekeeping services to owning and operating hotel properties, women hoteliers continue to step up to leave their mark in the industry,” said AAHOA Female Director Eastern Division Lina Patel, CHO. “I’m proud to work alongside the entire AAHOA Team to launch the HerOwnership program and give women hoteliers the chance to learn from and inspire each other, and set everyone up for years of progress and success.”

tejal patel

Tejal Patel, Female Director Western Division

“AAHOA has long been an advocate of amplifying women’s voices within the industry, and the brand-new HerOwnership program invites more and more women to shape the future of hospitality and advance their careers,” said AAHOA Female Director Western Division Tejal N. Patel, CHIA, CHO. “Additionally, the AAHOA HerOwnership Conference will aim to expand women hoteliers’ scope and view of what is possible professionally and personally in hospitality. I could not be more excited for all that will be accomplished thanks to HerOwnership and AAHOA’s renewed focus on opening doors women leaders in the industry.”



Share Your HEROwnership Story With the AAHOA Community

Each woman has a unique journey, and the AAHOA HerOwnership program wants to share your story. Fill out our form to share what being a woman in the hospitality industry means to you, advice you would give to the next generation of women hotel owners, and your biggest challenges and how you’ve overcome them.

Submit your story today here, and you’ll have a chance to be featured in our HerOwnership campaign.


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