As a sign of the times, and following a turbulent 2017, this year should be branded the Year of Women. How appropriate would that be? Last year, fuelled by Harvey Weinstein’s numerous sexual-harassment allegations — highlighted in an explosive story in the New York Times and the New Yorker — a parade of women came together to give rise to the Me-Too movement, which shone the light on the prevalence of sexual harassment in all industries while sparking wider discourse on a host of other women-related issues.
Closer to home, several weeks before Weinstein’s downfall, KML and Sequel Hotels and Resorts came together to launch the Women in Tourism and Hospitality Summit (WITH) and a new organization called WITHorg. The timing couldn’t have been better. This year, the second annual Women in Tourism & Hospitality Summit will take place on June 25 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto.
The theme of this year’s conference, “Unite and Ignite,” underscores the importance of working together to improve the status of women in all industries. And, let’s be clear, this is not an issue that focuses solely on women. If we are to succeed on all fronts, men need to buy in and be supportive both at work and at home, recognizing that outdated beliefs and behaviours are no longer acceptable. After years of being ignored, undervalued and under-appreciated, women are speaking up — and their voices are finally being heard. There’s no going back.
Coinciding with this year’s Summit, this month’s issue of Hotelier magazine highlights several women leaders making inroads in the hospitality world (see story on p. 13). Their contributions underscore the immense value women bring to the table. And, while our approach to business may be unique, those differences will hopefully lead to the emergence of a new type of business leader — a compassionate and caring champion committed to diversity and ready to challenge the status quo. Who knows, it just may lead to a more effective business model — one where both sexes can work effectively and collaboratively.
But let’s not kid ourselves. There’s work to be done. As momentum builds and we continue to champion change, the face of the industry will undergo significant transformation. And, as tomorrow’s generation of men and women come into the fold, they’ll no longer be constrained by traditional rules and outdated thinking.
It’s time to come together, Let’s “unite and ignite” to become game changers, innovators and disruptors in a bid to not only change the business world, but to improve it. Who knows, maybe in the process, it might even help improve the world. It’s about time.