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Marriott International, Inc (represented by Fanny Cheng)

By Kenny Lau


Marriott International is the world’s largest hotel company based in the US state of Maryland with more than 5,700 properties in over 110 countries; it is also a company dedicated to providing employees with numerous opportunities and creating a diverse and inclusive work environment. It is indeed the first hospitality company to establish a Women’s Leadership Development Initiative (WDLI).

“As the world’s largest hotel company, we not only want to see women represented in leadership roles in all regions where we operate, but we also want to lead the industry and encourage more companies to do the same by nurturing their women employees and providing them with more opportunities to move into leadership roles,” says Fanny Cheng, Communications Executive for Asia Pacific at Marriott International.

Globally, women represent 52 percent of Marriott International’s staff and nearly 60 percent of its management; in Asia Pacific, nearly 40 percent of the company’s managers are women. The company has set up numerous development programs since the 1980s in a framework designed to create a conducive environment for growth, learning, mentorship and support among women employees.

Over the past few years, Marriott has had a noticeable increase of women in leadership roles.

The GM Elevate program since its inception in 2014 has produced 24 women graduates, boosting the number of female General Managers (GMs) across the combined organization by 70 percent; by 2018, more than 70 women GMs are expected.

To nurture and support rising female talent within Marriott’s group of companies in Asia, 27 ambassadors across 11 APAC countries have been appointed to provide support and mentorship to female employees and to undertake a string of relevant initiatives in their respective markets under the Women in Leadership (WIL) Market Ambassadors program.

Marriott’s strong commitment to gender equality, diversity and inclusion is reflected internally in the progressive makeup of women managers and externally in the diversity of business partners and vendors. “Our people-first culture is built on giving associates opportunities to grow and succeed – regardless of gender,” Cheng says. “Quite simply, we want every job in the company to be available to both men and women.”

In other words, it is equality in the form of equal opportunity for both men and women. “It is our philosophy because we believe that having more women in leadership positions than we have today brings better decision-making, better performance, and more diversity to the experiences we’re creating for our customers. It is a vital part of our strategy for growth, and we really do believe that this will make us a better company at the end of the day.”

“The mentality that men and women should be able to pursue their dream job regardless of gender is engrained in our people-first culture and embraced by all our employees,” Cheng highlights. “Our employees – men and women alike – have been very supportive of all our policies and programs, and they play an important role in ensuring that we can achieve success with our initiatives.”

The challenge sometimes is when people do not dare to dream of breaking through the glass ceiling into leadership roles, and it can happen in any sector or industry. “Quotas and support programs can be a great help, but sometimes it takes a simple conversation with each other to get past the mindset that they can’t reach higher up in their career.”

“When women professionals have a conversation with each other, it allows more women to share experiences, challenge thinking and inspire each other to achieve their goals and aspirations – whatever they may be,” Cheng explains. “We all need to do so to encourage more women to take on leadership roles.”

“And this isn’t limited to women starting their careers; all of us – men and women alike –have a critical role to play in helping women feel supported so that they are able to believe it in a way that is most authentic to them. You and your peers can help you with whatever you are tackling on the job and in your career, and you should make use of that opportunity by reaching out and meeting those around you.”

“As we have become the world’s largest hotel company, it’s more important than ever that we lead the industry and continue to promote and support more women,” Cheng says. “Women are vital to the workplace, and we believe equal opportunity and talent development lead us to high performance – and we must strive for this if we want to succeed moving forward.”