“The success of every woman should be the inspiration to another. We should raise each other up. Make sure you’re very courageous: be strong, be extremely kind, and above all be humble.” – Serena Williams
My family has been in the catering and hospitality industry for four generations, so it was only natural that I would pursue a career in hospitality. When I first started my career, I was so eager to learn and tackle the world (while simultaneously wanting to blend in). I was petrified of failure. I didn’t want to call unnecessary attention to myself or be seen in a different light than my colleagues. I feared that being different was something negative and wanted to avoid that at all costs. I tried to keep my nose down while absorbing the knowledge and experience from those around me. The majority of people I worked with were men and I wanted to be viewed as their equal – even my mentors were male. Many of them had decades of experience while I was fresh out of college. I learned from them but I definitely felt they looked down on me. It was most likely a combination of my age, how green I was in the Industry, my gender (and let’s be honest being the Boss’ daughter couldn’t have helped much). I remember listening to them talk about women at that time and I still cringe. Women were often openly discussed as eye candy (after all this was a time when “harassment” could be spelled differently, beginning with “her.”)
I didn’t want to be seen like that, viewed as “just” a woman, nor seen as “lesser than” my male counterparts. I truly believed that I could do everything as well as them. It took me a very long time (an embarrassingly long time) to realize that there is power in being a woman while embracing what makes me unique. Now being on the other side of my career, with decades of experience and countless war stories (just ask anyone on my team who “get” to hear them daily), I can accept that I was vastly different than them. With my “green-ness,” I’m pretty certain I also brought an air of freshness to the team of “good ol’ boys“ while at the time, I only saw my flaws and weaknesses.
I was moved while reading Michelle Obama’s “The Light We Carry.” The candor and vulnerability in which she shared her fears and how debilitating they could be was so powerful. Realizing that each of us has our own baggage and only we can decide what we want to do with it…pretend it’s not there, lug it around, or just leave it behind. A lot of the challenges I’ve struggled with – striving for perfection, allowing my fears to guide me at times and putting others’ needs in front of my own are common issues for women. If I could have a conversation with my younger self I would urge myself to not fear being different and push to understand what makes me tick, decipher what I want (and don’t want) from life so that I can forge a path while leaning into my strengths and embracing what makes me unique. As I’ve aged and as the world around me has changed, I have found those answers for me.
Now I am a part of an incredible team, a member of a vibrant community. I feel seen, appreciated, surrounded and supported by incredibly talented and intelligent people (both women and men). I am thankful that we now live in a time where being different is welcomed, authenticity is appreciated, and vulnerability encouraged. I have been inspired by so many people and I hope to also inspire others. I focus my energies on “progress not perfection” and “done is better than perfect.”
“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” – Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead