REFERRING to the women in the hospitality industry, Dr. Steve Bedwell, a motivational speaker, observed, “To shatter the glass ceiling in your organization, you must also shatter the glass ceiling in your mind.”
This is exactly what Novotel Resident Manager Maria Garcia learned almost three decades ago, when she worked in a hotel in California, USA, at the age of 18.
She recalled, “In California, 26 years ago, the hospitality industry had positions dominated by male, and although there were available positions for female, it was limited and mostly rank-and-file positions, or they really have to start at the back of the house, or if you had the personality, you’d be at the front desk.”
Through this, she was enlightened that if she wanted to make it in the industry—being a female Asian minority in the US—she needed to have a mindset to work harder in achieving her goal.
Turn disadvantages to advantages
“The first mindset I adapted was recognizing my first disadvantage and turned it to my advantage,” she said elaborating while many looked down on her for being a woman, she still decided not to bring this down.
She believed that women have a lot of advantages including natural charisma, which can be an asset in dealing with people. She also added that women also have an eye for details and are mostly multi-taskers.
“With both hard work and maximizing my feminine traits, the management noticed my potential and I was promoted from a rank-and-file position to a department head and later to a member of the executive committee,” Garcia said.
Never settle for less
During her rise to the top, Garcia also experienced workplace discrimination in the US.
Strong as ever, she said, “I have learned in the past that no one has the right to set your limitation or capabilities. Don’t just go with the flow to be safe. Learn how to stand up and fight for what you believe in. Keep it simple: Never settle for less.”
This way, she believes, “Together we can change the culture, recruitment process, and take our rightful place alongside with our male colleagues in embracing diversity in the workplace.”
Today, she is thankful that more and more companies are now opening equal opportunities to women.
Dream and work for it
Garcia is thankful to her parents who taught her the value of discipline and respect, and more importantly, to dream.
Her mother was the reason Garcia is in the hotel industry. She shared, “She was the director of the housekeeping department, when I started working as a part time employee at InterCon Hotel in California.
“I thought I’d get special treatment, but she assigned me in the laundry department. But she said, ‘If you want to succeed, you should work from the bottom and work yourself up. Understand and learn how to be at service to others. That is the true meaning of hospitality.’ At first I wanted to quit, but she made me understand, and I took the challenge.”
Another setback was her early marriage, from which she had a daughter to take care of while studying and starting her career in the US.
“It was really tough, but with God’s grace and determination, I was able to make it,” Garcia proudly said.
Make a difference
Garcia worked in nine hotels and finished Business Management and Physical Therapy courses at the same time.
At her current position in Novotel, she said, “This is the fourth hotel where I was fortunate to be at the pre-opening. Opening a hotel is like giving birth, you have to nourish and take care of it until it can stand by itself. It’s a great feeling.”
She is also very proud that her management company, Accor, promotes women programs, like the He for She Program and the GM PASS. For her, these will help women know their important roles in society, just like how she was able to shatter the glass ceiling in her mind.