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Wait – the glass ceiling is real?

I grew up in an egalitarian, low-income family.  My dad had a medical disability, so my mom was the one who went to work.  As a young boy, I never knew that other parents didn’t operate like mine.  They shared all the tasks – he cooked & did housework while she went to work.  In my reality, they worked together to help each other.  As my dad’s health improved at the age of 50, he returned to the workforce – and now my mom was the stay-at-home parent.  I just assumed that all genders operated equally. 

Silly me. From my home experience, I just thought women would rise to the same levels as men, and do so easily.  However, when in my professional experience I saw the glass ceiling.  I saw women in other departments denied positions they rightly deserved.  In my 3+ decades in the travel industry, I’ve seen women’s equality s l o w l y improve. 

Women in Travel Thrive was founded to ensure that Covid-19 does not result in a BIG SETBACK to women in the travel industry. And impact the slow improvement we’ve seen the last 30 years. The fact is, women are more likely to be the caregiver at home due to the virus, and we’ve already seen through research that males are – again –the ones more likely to keep their hospitality employment.  That is purely and totally unacceptable.

I am the utmost supporter of equal rights for gender, race, sexual orientation, special needs, ethnicity, religion, and whatever else I can support. But, the true holding back of women in our business world upsets me the most as the VERY BEST leaders I’ve had have always been female.

Indeed, after graduating with my master’s degree, my first boss, Jo Kiling, remains an icon to me! My 2nd boss was Estela Bode from the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau – may she rest in peace. Both of these ladies and countless others became my mentors and leaders. In college, my mentor was Marilyn Wagner who had many years with National Airlines and also started the Alachua County Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Mentoring: Upward, Sideways, And Downward

To me, mentoring is everything – and there are three ways to have a mentorship – I call it upward, sideways, and downward.

 I like to think of upward mentoring as the ‘original’ – as it is the traditional thought to seek information and guidance from those in industries or professions that we admire.  They can offer advice to avoid mistakes they’ve made, tips on strategic planning and behavioral goals. 

Jack DeBoer was the ‘inventor’ of the extended stay lodging concept.  I invited him to speak at a luncheon for the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association (CFHLA) following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  His entire speech was invigorating and inspiring on many levels – but one thing he said has stuck with me all these years.  ‘You take years and years developing your ‘brand’ and your professionalism.  You study, you attend conferences and meetings.  You work hard. And, then – in one day – a bad decision could destroy your entire career.’  

He was referencing the many fallen CEOs and other high level leaders who had ruined their careers by missing something very important in their leadership toolbox.   I look to each mentor to provide guidance on multiple levels – including regular everyday living, to business strategy, to balancing work and life effectively to ensure leaders don’t end up as a result referenced in his quote. 

Sideways mentoring is learning from my peers each and every day.  In hotels, I considered my sideways managers and supervisors as my equals – even though on paper I may have been their General Manager.  I would seek and learn different work patterns, work styles, and work behaviors from these peers.  I also learned how different personality types worked in different situations – and, I learned how to be a compassionate leader, one who listens and tries to view situations through multiple viewpoints. 

Downwards mentoring is a working relationship to learn from those who have not yet progressed to your same level of role.  As an educator, I definitely lean in to the benefits of having downward mentors. Millennials and Generation Z mentor me on new styles, new trends, new language and nuances in terms.  They present to me new ways of seeing things through their lens. 

No matter where a mentor is in the hierarchy of business or life – I learn from each and every one of them and make it a regular practice of staying open minded.  This makes me eager to have a mentor, and to be a good mentor. 

Women of the travel industry: take advantage of this opportunity to create a lasting connection through mentorship by joining Women in Travel Thrive for a Day of Impact.

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