As one of the ten founding signatories of the United Nations HeForShe movement, Accor is committed to gender equality, diversity and inclusion and this year, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, has signed the Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence.
Accor will host a conference highlighting the impacts of gender-based violence, featuring esteemed speakers including Kalliopi Mingeirou, UN Women Chief, Ending Violence against Women and Girls; Geraldine Grace da Fonseca da Justa, Director of Brazil’s Department for Policies to Combat Violence Against Women; and Sohini Bhattacharya, President & CEO Breakthrough India. The conference will help educate Accor’s employees worldwide on the issues facing women and barriers against equality.
“We are at a pivotal moment in history, with the #MeToo movement showing the prevalence of harassment and violence against women, and the best way to combat this is to ensure we have equal representation of women in positions of leadership across the workplace and the community,” said Garth Simmons, CEO Accor SE Asia, Japan and South Korea. “I am proud to say that my executive committee consists of five women and six men and I have always believed that gender equity leads to a richness of ideas and greater collaboration and performance.
“As the father of two daughters, I want to make sure they grow up in a world where everyone is treated with dignity and respect and offered equal access to opportunities. Working across 12 countries in Asia, I have seen first-hand how poverty and inaccessibility can foster gender-based inequality and I am deeply committed to creating an environment where we can bring about real change. In particular, we must promote and mentor women and engage in community projects that provide support and education to disadvantaged women and girls.”
Since 2012, Accor has put in place a women’s support and mentoring network, now called RiiSE, which promotes diversity as a means of driving collective performance. RiiSE engages both women and men in the group to work together, using mentoring, training, education and conferences to fight stereotypes and violence against women and promote diversity and inclusion.
Simmons acknowledges that while his leadership committee is gender balanced, more needs to be done to ensure equal representation of women across the group, especially in the area of Operations. The heads of the Corporate Finance, Legal, Talent & Culture (HR), Commercial and Communications teams are women but in the operational side of the business, there is still a predominance of men. While women make up 40.5% of staff at hotel level, they represent only 14% of hotel General Managers. In terms of corporate offices, 57.5% of staff are women and 56.4% of middle managers are women, so there is a strong pipeline of women coming up through the organisation at a corporate level, but further action must be taken to encourage more women to take up the role of General Manager at a hotel level.
“I have asked our teams across SE Asia, Japan & South Korea to double down on their efforts to ensure women are offered equal opportunities across all levels of the business and we will particularly focus on fostering more female General Managers across the hub,” said Simmons.
In a post-Covid world, increased flexibility for both women and men will help to break down existing bias against women who traditionally have taken more time off to look after their families.
In honour of International Women’s Day 2021, we profile a selection of diverse women from across the Accor SE Asia network and celebrate their achievements in the hope of encouraging more women to strive towards their goals and more men to support them:
Kerry Healy, Chief Commercial Officer, SE Asia, Japan & South Korea
“Working in hospitality for over 25 years, more than half of it with Accor, I have always been impressed with the way the group nurtures its women talents and promotes equality. I have been given so many great opportunities to learn and grow, none more so than in my current role. It was a big challenge to take on such a role in the middle of a crisis, but I feel very supported by the men and women in the executive team and I know that the best way to grow is to stretch yourself beyond what you think you are capable of. Risk brings the best rewards and it’s great to work for a company that supports innovation and encourages new ways of thinking, especially in the midst of a crisis. I want to create a culture where people don’t feel uncomfortable for prioritising their families. One of the greatest things to come from this pandemic is increased workplace flexibility, enabling us all to live richer lives. My advice to other women is to not let fear stop you, but instead to embrace fear as a way to grow.”
Bettina Arguelles, Executive Chef, Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila
“Accor has given me the opportunities to grow and improve myself. My greatest mentors and friends have been within the Accor community. I am grateful for how Accor has seen potential and promise in me, even when I didn’t. One can only work so hard to achieve their goals but without the right support and opportunities, it may seem like a daunting task. Accor has allowed me to grow and evolve, playing on my strengths, and recognising a job well done. I’ve been given an opportunity to lead one of the biggest operations in the region and especially during these challenging times, my personal and professional growth has been monumental, trying to navigate the rough waters of uncertainty. My peers and colleagues have been generous in their help, promoting a culture of camaraderie and team work.”
Anne-Cecile Degenne, Executive Chef, Sofitel Ambassador Seoul Hotel & Serviced Residences, South Korea
“Since I joined the group in 2012, Accor has always trusted me, and given me the tools to achieve my goals and I have been lucky to work in Vietnam, Singapore, the Philippines, the Caribbean and now Seoul. I was given great exposure to highlight my work through social media and the chance to attend trainings, conferences, and meet so many different people from the organisation. I eagerly await each year to attend the Food & Beverage Academy, where we share best practices in the world of food and one of the best experiences I have had was to go to Paris to take over the global head office’s high-end restaurant to curate my own menu for a week. The best career advice I ever received was from my first Executive Chef, who once told me, no matter the difficulties, follow your dream. For all the women out there who sometimes doubt themselves, I will say that nothing is impossible. It’s all about work and passion, no matter how long it takes, go where you want to go and achieve your dreams.”
Amandine Vuylsteke, Marine Biologist, Pullman Maamutaa Maldives
“When people think about careers in hospitality, they don’t realise the diverse opportunities available in hotels. As a marine biologist, it’s my dream job to share the unique ecosystem of the magnificent Maldives with our guests. One amazing thing to me is when a guest comes out of the water during a snorkelling excursion with a big smile and sparkles in their eyes, because they just achieved something special. Snorkelling outside a reef for an hour is a challenge but what makes me even prouder is when they fall in love with the marine environment, and with what they just encountered under the water surface. I also love that no two days are the same in my job. Accor offers so many opportunities in some of the world’s most beautiful destinations – it’s a dream!”
Hanh Pham, Director, Finance Operations Upper Southeast Asia and the Maldives, Accor Vietnam
“Be a team player. Every individual has his/her own set of skills and strengths. When a whole team works together, there are valuable opportunities to learn from each other and experience a sense of responsibility and accountability. I am happy to have such wonderful people in my team. After over 26 years working with Accor, I am grateful to be part of this company. Our leaders have offered me numerous opportunities to grow and a chance to work with many wonderful colleagues. I am thankful for all their great contributions towards my success.”
Yingste Chenouw – Deputy General Counsel – SE Asia, Japan & South Korea
“My proudest moment so far is being given the opportunity to step up and take on my current role and being entrusted with a wider portfolio of work and complex matters. This has further signified to me that Accor is an employer that cares about, rewards and encourages professional growth. My advice to other women coming up is to find a great mentor – I have been very lucky to have amazing women with Accor who have offered me advice, support and encouragement to grow. I also think it is important to have a work-life balance and I relax with my fellow musician friends when the opportunity arises. Accor has many programmes in place to help women advance their careers and it is up to us to take advantage of what is available and make the most of the opportunities.”
Novita Damayanti, Bartender, Novotel Suites Yogyakarta Malioboro, Indonesia
“Accor has helped me grow by giving me the chance to explore my interests and talents. The opportunities to learn and move are huge in this organisation and the sky is the limit. Accor also emphasizes on values such as respect, trust and innovation that resonate with me. These values are the foundation of the organization, which set us on the right path. One of my managers said that life is not simply about the balance between taking and giving. There will be times when we need to just give, without expecting something in return. We just need to do and be the best we can be without expecting any immediate rewards. One day, it will come back to us tenfold and in unexpected ways.”
Warairat Sompong – General Manager Ibis Styles Bangkok Ratchada, Thailand
“I have learned that in any situation, in our personal life or working life, look for the silver lining. We can definitely find a great lesson in seemingly negative situations. This advice has helped me a lot in these challenging times, to be better prepared and to see how we can emerge from this stronger than ever. I am big believer in people being our most valuable asset. In any organisation or hotel, our talents are the foundation for our success. My priority is always to ensure our people are engaged and keep them positive, while ensuring we all work together collaboratively and supportively. The more I learn about people, the more I enjoy our differences. I love spending time with my team to understand their different perspectives and support them in a better work life balance.”