RICHMOND, B.C. — Vivek Sharma, CEO of Fairmont Hot Springs Resort in the Columbia Valley, has apologized and re-signed from multiple boards after making a sexist comment at the opening of the B.C. Tourism and Hospitality Conference on March 9.
Sharma asked the women in attendance to stand in honour of International Women’s Day and then told them to “go clean some rooms and do some dishes,” following an applause.
“It was shocking. It was embarrassing. He was literally laughing at us. It felt terrible,” Trina Notman, vice-president of Marketing and Communications for Accent Hotels and Hotel Zed told CBC News. “We’re not going to tolerate this treatment anymore, and we’re going to call for real change. Real change means real equity.”
Since the conference, Sharma has re-signed from his positions on the boards of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C. (TIABC) and the B.C. Hotel Association (BCHA). The B.C. Chamber of Commerce has also accepted his resignation from its board of directors, and according to his LinkedIn profile, he’s no longer on the advisory council for Thompson Rivers University’s School of Business and Economics.
“I am very sorry and deeply regret the insensitive and inappropriate comments I made at the start of last week’s B.C. Tourism & Hospitality Conference. Not only did my words cause distress for several women in the audience but I also offended many other delegates,” reads Sharma’s apology statement. “My unacceptable remarks did not set the intended tone for the conference and consequently placed TIABC and BCHA’s board and staff in a very difficult position. I am also mindful that what I said does not reflect the views of either TIABC or BCHA, both of whom have worked hard to advocate for the tenets of equality, inclusion, and diversity in our sector. I’ve spent many years working alongside these reputable organizations to help our industry grow and flourish. As a result of my recent conduct, I have let down valued colleagues who love and care about me.”
In addition, Walt Judas, CEO of TIABC and Ingrid Jarrett, president and CEO of BCHA released a written statement of apology on social media. “We sincerely apologize for the harm this disparaging remark caused,” reads the statement. “Both TIABC and BCHA stand behind all the women of our industry and remain committed to championing females of every age, ethnicity, skill level and ability to achieve their full potential and realize every opportunity to contribute and succeed as equal partners both in society and in our sector.”