In October last year Irish Sinead O Reilly was appointed the general manager of Hyatt Regency. Last week German Janet Fitzner joined Radisson Hotel Kathmandu in the same position. Nepali Times asked Fitzner and O Reilly what advice they have for young women aspiring to break the glass ceiling.
Nepali Times: Did you ever feel that you had to work extra hard to prove your capabilities to superiors because you are a woman?
Sinead O Reilly
Janet Fitzner: I don’t recall being denied opportunities because I am a woman. I was fortunate to have mentors who were always supportive of my ambitions. But, I have felt sometimes women need to be empowered to feel they can aspire to the top positions when they work in a male dominated industry.
Sinead O Reilly: Honestly speaking no, I have been lucky to work with previous general managers who actually believed females were equally productive and proactive as male counterparts.
What do you like the most about your job?
Fitzner: Running a successful hotel requires a great deal of teamwork. I enjoy bringing together different strengths of people from different backgrounds in order to achieve a common commercial goal; service excellence. I also enjoy the diversity of the job.
O Reilly: The fact that no day is ever the same, you can never say you are bored, and you come across new challenges. Also, the fact that you meet so many people from all around the world and it is a joy to see their happiness when we as a team contribute to their vacation or business experience.
Is this what you always saw yourself doing?
Fitzner: Yes. I have a passion for the hospitality business that ignited when I started my career in hospitality as a trainee. My mother actually wanted me to become a banker or a teacher because she didn’t want me working long hours. I was, however, determined to pursue my goals, and I worked my way up to eventually take on the role of general manager.
How do you want guests to feel when they stay at your hotel?
O Reilly: I want our guests to feel that they are enjoying a “memorable experience” and feeling the “authentic hospitality” that we as Hyatt Regency Kathmandu wish to extend to our all guests.
Women still remain under-represented in most senior and leadership roles and there are only few female general managers of hotels. Why do you think is the case?
Fitzner: Like any other industry, the hospitality industry is male dominated but this is slowly changing. If we look at Radisson in Kathmandu, the male to female ratio in management sector is very good. We already have 30 per cent women working in the management sector, which I believe is a very good ratio. That’s the ratio we want to achieve all over Radisson. Last year we started a program which aims to double women in leadership positions by 2016 at all Radisson Hotels.
O Reilly: As with many industries, the hospitality sector too has few women in leadership roles. In many cases, this scenario could arise out of equal opportunities not being made available and some form of discrimination being prevalent in certain society. This is further escalated when there is a perception that women unlike men will not be able to devote their full time and energy due to family constrains. Furthermore, I believe a network of likeminded women leaders are limited who can guide and assist other women aspiring to take on leadership roles.
What is your personal philosophy?
Fitzner: To work hard, never give up and always maintain a fighting spirit, and most importantly to do things with integrity and passion.
Any advice for young women who aspire for the top job in the hotel business?
Fitzner: First of all, believe in yourself. We have a motto at Radisson, which says “Yes I can”. Secondly, take your education and training very seriously, and never stop learning. Also, don’t give up. You will find that all successful business people (men and women) have encountered obstacles and difficulties in their journey to the top. The ones who make it are the ones who did not give up. As a final note, be creative and innovative, as the world and the workplace is constantly evolving, so being adaptable is very important.
O Reilly: Work hard and achieve the results and be knowledgeable in at least two industry disciplines: sales, operations for example.
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