It’s been quite a month for the Hotelier Middle East team. My team and I are still recovering from all the excitement from the 14th edition of Hotelier Middle East Awards 2018 which was held on October 24 at the Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre.

It was my first Hotelier Awards event and I can safely say it’s one for the memories. With 124 nominees and 14 hotel teams across 18 categories, hoteliers from all across the Middle East came to represent their teams in the hopes of being recognised for the hard work they put in over the last year.

We received nearly 400 applications for the awards and what stood out to me what was the number of women hoteliers applying for the various categories have steadily risen, and this is no shocker. Women make up a significant part of the workforce at any given hotel.

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Women have been stepping out of “traditionally female” roles and taking on position which have been traditionally male-dominated. This was evidenced by 28-year-old Zehra Masood, the purchasing director at Fairmont Dubai (p 58) who walked away with the ‘Procurement Person of the Year’ award.

Women are taking on challenging roles and companies are forging new paths too. Emaar broke new ground with the appointment of Sharihan Al Mashary (p 30) as the first female Emirati general manager of Manzil Downtown in Dubai, part of the Vida Hotels & Resorts brand. I had the privilege to sit down with Al Mashary to speak at length about her plans to bring forth initiatives to encourage gender equality and for women to join the hospitality industry.

Senior online editor Sarakshi Rai also had the opportunity to catch up AccorHotel’s chief digital officer in charge of Digital, Distribution, Sales and Information Systems Maud Bailly who spoke in length about Accor’s ‘Riise’ programme which focuses on gender equality (watch out for this on our YouTube channel).

And considering that for years, one of the criticisms of Hotelier Middle East’s annual Power 50 list is that there are no women included in the make-up of the list.

However, the number of women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) hospitality sector may be set to increase.  Comapnies are taking notice and are launching their own initiatives to address the issue. AccorHotels has commited to include 35% female hotel manager in its global portfolio.

Hilton appointed the first female general manager in Dubai, Nayla Chowdhury  to head the world’s largest Hampton by Hilton Dubai Airport (video  interview available on Hotelier’s YouTube channel.

Rotana Hotels promoted Shaikha Al Nowais as the new vice president — owner relationship management, a new role to focus on owner-operator relations.

Hotel companies are definitely recognising gender diversity as an issue and working on bringing about effective long-term change.

So we’ve decided to create the first ‘Women in Hospitality’ list that pays homage to the women at the top of their careers working in the hospitality industry in the region. The applications have been pouring in and the response from hotels have been extremely positive and overwhelming.

The editorial team is excited to get a head start on the surveys to read about women hoteliers across various roles within the Middle East and North Africa.

The full list of the finalists for the power list will be available on Hotelier Middle East’s digital channels by the end of the calender year.