I have been in the hotel industry for 24 years, I can honestly say, I spent so much of my career just trying to fit in. You can view my LinkedIn profile, you can review my resume, you can see the success and I still constantly, as a stand out, was working to just fit it. I look back now and think if I would have put as much energy on growth as I did fitting in, how much further would I be. This is my advice to young women starting out in their careers, STOP- just be you and don’t try to be someone else or model yourself off of them.
The desire to fit was evident in so many ways, there are too many to list but here are the big ones. I learned how to play golf, yes, I did, I am not even a fan of golf. There were so many men leaving the resort to go play golf in the midst of the day. When they returned with their stories and decisions made on the course, I felt left out. Why should they go to the course and enjoy while I was holding down the fort? I was most disheartened when even males of lesser positions than the one I held were invited along. So, I signed up with a pro and learned. Later, once they realized I actually knew how to play I was invited but I still struggled with the financial commitments of the sport that were covered for some men- lending of clubs, I needed to buy or rent, situations like this.
Whiskey, I learned about it. I am not a fan of scotch/whiskey, never was, and I am not really one today. I dedicated learning what to order, how to order, all about casks, etc, etc, etc. I have always been a sports fan so that was not a stretch however, football pools, participated in those. The list can go on and on. I would feel emotional and would stay in the bathroom until I got myself together and I would not show that I was bothered even though at times I was hurt on the inside.
I would love to tell you that now, none of that matters and that it doesn’t happen any more but it does, not to the extremes of what I described but it is still evident in the day-to-day. Even now I do not want to seem emotional, or too direct, or overly caring, or aloof. I worry about this all of the time while my male counterparts seem just be who they are. When they are direct, they are strong, when they are emotional, they are caring, and so on. While I have not, thankfully, been the victim sexual harassment or the sort, I have had to battle perceptions of females in the workplace. Women in general feel they need to fit in or mold themselves to the environment and not stand out.
Working in the hotel industry I am excited and encouraged by the number of females that are representing higher roles. In my current organization that is evident from the top down- CEO, President, VP of Strategy, to Guest Service Agents and everything in between, however not everywhere. I still also see the struggle for women juggling work and home while that same stress is not evident to many males in the industry. I realize that struggle made me stronger and able to deal with most anything that is thrown at me. On the outside, I looked like I had it all together and on the inside I was a mess. Listening to my daughters describe me as always having it together, achieving success, and making it look so easy I decided to model that and make it a reality.
Looking back on all of it now while my path to success was not terrible, it was not easy. I believe the struggles and strides I made are paving the way for a new generation of strong women in the workplace that can just be themselves and work toward success in their own way.