Women are more empowered now than ever before – and many are thriving in the Business of Happiness. This International Women’s Day, six female hotel leaders share how they have each found fulfillment and success in their chosen hotel career.
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How long have you been in the Business of Happiness? I started working in hotels in 1997, so this would be my 22nd year.
Tell us about your role and your day-to-day duties.
I’m the Hotel Manager. I report to my General Manager (GM) who is in charge of the hotel, while I take charge of the entire operation of the hotel, specifically the Food & Beverage division, and the Rooms division. On top of that, I also look after the Quality and the Security departments. I have department heads running their daily operations, so I monitor all of that to ensure the hotel is performing exceptionally.
Every morning, we start with an Operations meeting. Communication is really important in hotel operations because we are all interlinked. All the departments have to synergise with each other and work as a team. There’s never too much communication, so we talk to each other all the time! That’s also the fun part of our job. You feel like it’s a family. We are all in it together. I see myself as the extra pair of eyes and hands when the team needs help. I’m always there for them.
I also aim to inspire the team by sharing and communicating the vision of the hotel and the company. As someone who oversees everything, it is my responsibility to provide a sense of purpose to the work that we do, and to unleash the potential in every team member by giving them the right environment and resources to grow and develop. You need to motivate the team, to see the goodness in them, to show them the objectives and how to achieve them. Once you’ve set that vision and everybody works toward that goal, that’s when the team becomes very strong. They need you to be there to lead them forward.
What does being a woman in the workplace today mean to you? To me, it’s the freedom to choose who we want to become, where we want to go. It’s very powerful and I never take it for granted. We’re a very fortunate group to be here today, to get the best education and to choose a career we want to have.
Do you think the industry is making good progress in achieving gender equality?
Yes, I definitely think that the hotel industry is making great progress on that front. Twenty years ago, there were very few top female executives, especially in operations. But today, there are women GMs – it’s not unheard of anymore.
In this industry, jobs are no longer gender-exclusive. We hire based on merit and suitability for the job. Within our hotel group, diversity is being embraced by the top management, who are actively promoting gender diversity for different roles. As long as you put your hand up and are up for it, the opportunity will be given to you. I was very lucky to have different mentors throughout my years in the industry. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d be a Hotel Manager. It was quite challenging when I was new in the role as I had to run the operations without any prior background. But I have great teams along the way and who were really supportive and that helped me settled in the role very quickly.
Can we do better? Yes, but we are making big progress here and it’s a great start. With everything, there has to be a journey, so we are starting on that journey.
Do you have a female role model that you admire or look up to?
I truly admire the actress Meryl Streep – she’s the master of her craft. She’s so good at what she does and is still devoted to it even after many years. I aspire to have that passion. I want to become the master of my craft.
I also admire her ability to balance her personal life and work. This is a big issue for me: how we women with big responsibilities balance our personal and work lives. I really think it’s possible. As a working mum, I make sure that I spend quality time with my daughter – we are very close. We’re like best friends.
What made you decide to join and stay in the industry?
I was in the broadcast industry for three years when I was in Hong Kong. I saw an ad from Island Shangri-La in Hong Kong and they were hiring for the position of Assistant Communications Manager. I just went for it and got the job! That was my first step into hospitality. I went in without any knowledge. They took a risk in hiring me and I never looked back since. I really enjoyed my journey, and I’m still enjoying it now.
The term ‘Business of Happiness’ describes the industry very well. Our job is to make everyone happy, and in the process, we become happy ourselves. It’s hard work, don’t get me wrong. Nothing comes easy: There are long hours, you’re on your feet all the time, and it’s highly stressful. But at the end of it, when you see the happiness and the satisfaction from the guests, it makes your day and makes you think everything is so worthwhile.
What’s your favourite part of the job? The chance to mentor younger team members and see them grow. I want to be there for them, just like my mentors were there for me. Last week, I got a WhatsApp message from an old colleague in Hong Kong. She was promoted to Vice President of Marketing and she thanked me for guiding and mentoring her. That really made my day. Every day when I come to work, I always think: “How can I make a positive impact today?”
What advice would you give to women who want to work in the industry? Find the passion inside you. And when you're sure that this is what you want to do, go for it without hesitation. You need to have grit. Nothing is impossible – as long as you have the passion and grit, and you want to be the master of your craft, you can succeed.