Highlighting Women Leading Tourism

Understand what sits at the heart of the success of these three impressive women.

Setting the scene and trying to understand what sits at the heart of the success of these three impressive women, who have each in their own way found empowerment and opportunity yet also had to overcome challenges as women in leadership roles which are primarily male-dominated.

Three Impressive Women


Setting the scene and trying to understand what sits at the heart of the success of these three impressive women, who have each in their own way found empowerment and opportunity yet also had to overcome challenges as women in leadership roles which are primarily male-dominated.


Being Your Best Self


What does it mean to follow your purpose and establish your own path?


Lila explains that for more than a decade she worked in a male-dominated corporate setting and whilst perhaps it is assumed, she didn't feel that she approached barriers in the industry, but barriers which can only be described as personal to her.


As a woman who likes to dress and be present in a very feminine way, sometimes that sense of being also served as a perception barrier to just being herself in an environment where she didn't reflect who else was in the room. She points out that in fact many times it has been male figures who have given her opportunities but she herself could find this mental barrier holding her back.


Eva shared a very different example of a female boss, who was her superior as VP, whilst she worked in an Executive role. Competition is also something which became very evident and dominance of top roles isn't something held exclusively by men, women can also create barriers to growth.


She points out that one of the biggest barriers we as people have to overcome is ourselves. Only we can find our path forward, a sense of empowerment where we can discover our own sense of purpose. When we find that confidence when we allow ourselves to feel that confidence we can then find our way forward.


So what lies at the heart of allowing ourselves to find that 'best version of ourselves?' Well, the truth is, explains Eva, the answer is complex. The lack of confidence often goes back to childhood, where we find our confidence or find it destructed back in childhood, which of course is a deeply personal and individual question.


If we step back out to today, what is really key is to consider how you project yourself. Who is the person you want to be in that situation? Do you need to show your boundaries? Project your compassionate side?


For Lila, this tendency to always compare ourselves to others can always be unachievable.


Openness to share thoughts and experiences, whether privately or even in the workplace, is key to overcoming barriers and creating better awareness and acceptance of individual differences and the importance of just bringing yourself - not your projected self.


What has the experience of being an all-female team? There is a sense that the gender discussion usually comes down to 'men' and 'women', but sometimes it is subtitles, for example, perception of these roles, whilst also a question of understanding.


Something like taking time to go away, have a baby and know that your place is still there, is something that perhaps women understand better, but if the ownership and management might tend to be male-dominated, this understanding isn't necessarily an easy conversation.


From Lila's experience, she feels that it is hard to say exactly what those differences look like, but in her experience, the industry in the US is heavily female-dominated - around 70% of the workforce, yet ownership and management are male-dominated.


Reflecting on what this means and the impact of this, Lila expresses a general observation that women can tend to be more hesitant to put their hand up, to speak-up, to put themselves forward, to lean-in. They can be more cautious to rock the boat out of fear of stepping out of the norm, but the key thing she has learned here is that finding the confidence to lean-in is about growing - not keeping herself small. Hesitating means losing opportunities and not realising your fullest potential.


Mentors Play a Key Role


Mentorship is hugely important and each of the women on the panel share appreciation for those who have inspired them. Ewa talks about how her uncle took her to the first luxury hotel of the brand and it was an incredible first experience in the industry.


Overlooking London's Hyde Park, her uncle told her "whatever you want to create in your career, you can do it". She talks about how powerful these words were. At that point, she didn't know what she wanted, but she had the confidence to go after her dreams.


Over the years many mentors played a role in her growth and development, individuals who shared beliefs and a practical exchange around the power of knowledge. Personal development was also always key, where good mentors were able to reflect back to her the skills, strengths and talents that they could see in her, even if she couldn't see this in herself.


Throughout herself her career, she has held on to this awareness of the power of mentorship and how good managers mentor, guide and support individual growth to help people realise their true potential.


Claudia agrees. Empowering people and applying empathy and open communication are so important for us to grow in our careers, as individuals and to overcome barriers or perceptions of these barriers that as women can sometimes be prevalent.


Lila shares a view that a lot of times we naturally find our mentors. We naturally find someone whose career we admire or want to model, but equally, mentors can come from a book, or a memoir, where someone else's story can be truly inspiring. These motivations can exist in our everyday environment and we shouldn't discredit the value growing and gaining experience from a range of things, experiences and people in our everyday environments.


Overcoming Challenges


Lila's take on overcoming challenges is a somewhat spiritual pathway. Asking these huge life questions, which can sometimes be overwhelming. Questions about family, career, your life and how you see it span out and without this self-knowledge, self-study, you'll always find yourself looking somewhere else for answers.


Confidence is key. Don't try to be a man, trying to fit a male persona is a disservice to who you are. The key message, with a bit of tongue in cheek, is "fake it 'til you make it" and go for your dreams and goals. Don't let a lack of confidence hold you back.


Ewa agrees but also shares the view that honouring your path requires courage. Being aware of where courage comes from and recognising that failure is only one step in the path to individual empowerment, does not see failure as anything other than finding one's own journey.


Does Education Play a Role?


Education is very much focused on hard skills but there isn't really a school for what it takes to be a good leader. In developed countries, we perhaps have a different outlook on what this looks like.


Schools should be places to start a conversation. These 'hard skills' don't allow us to apply empathy, learn compassion, develop self-confidence and help us as individuals, men and women, to find their confidence which is key to overcoming barriers.


Lila agrees and also draws from learnings in different parts of the world, where culture can play a key role. The challenges in the US will differ hugely from other parts of the world where a more patriarchal society can mean different barriers to overcome.


In Eva's concluding thoughts, she reflects on the changes that constantly creating pressures. As things change so fast, we need to be engaged. We can't only ask companies and organisations to run training programmes, we also need to find our own pathway. Yes, organisations have a responsibility but also as individuals we have a responsibility to consider our role in society through these changes.

Key Takeaways

  • When we find that confidence when we allow ourselves to feel that confidence we can then find our way forward.

  • Confidence is key. Don't let a lack of confidence hold you back.

  • Empowering people and applying empathy and open communication are key for women to grow in their careers.

  • The industry in the US is heavily female-dominated - around 70% of the workforce, yet ownership and management are male-dominated.
Published on:
December 2022
About the contributor

Claudia Roth

Soul Luxury

Ewa Biging

Healing Hotels of the World

Lila Fox

Lila Fox Travel Co.