Currently responsible for leading a luxury portfolio of eight hospitality brands, Marriott International vice president Candice D’Cruz is one of the few women who are leading the hospitality industry in the Middle East.

At the hospitality giant’s Dubai outpost, D’Cruz effectively looks after The Ritz-Carlton, The Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Bulgari Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Edition, The Luxury Collection, JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts and W Hotels Worldwide in the Middle East and Africa region.

However, D’Cruz’s 20-year career changed dramatically after the birth of her daughter.

“My drive and motivation has allowed me to on occasion to be both the youngest department head and the only woman. At 27 years old, I was heading marketing and communication for Burj Khalifa which was an amazing accomplishment in itself.”

However, having a child, she believes can shine a new perspective and give the same situation a different meaning.

“I truly learnt not to sweat the small stuff and became more flexible and resilient. These are some of the most valuable leadership skills in the workplace. I discovered that life is as meaningful as you want it to be and the people you share it with. Having a daughter has helped me find moments in that fast-paced journey to just breathe and appreciate simplicity and the blessings I am grateful for,” she adds.

Walking into the Hotelier office along with D’Cruz is Hilton’s senior director, development Nisrine Karazi, who stepped off a red-eye flight from Egypt just a few hours before.

Part of a small specialist team (who Karazi says all work closely together without defined reporting lines), she has personally driven the signing of 34 new hotels and powered the growth of Hilton’s mid-market and upscale brands for the company.

“I am a strong believer in the importance of continuing to educate yourself throughout your career and seeking out extra knowledge to make you better able to do your job and relate to other colleagues,” Karazi says.

“I’ve been lucky to take on some very valuable cross-trainings in several other departments such as in legal, pre-openings and architecture, and design and construction.  All of these areas are crucial when signing a new project so by knowing what they do, I can help explain the process better to our owners and ensure their priorities are met,” she adds.

All over the globe, the lack of women in top management roles has lagged not only the hospitality industry but also much of the business world. It's definitely an issue that many hospitality companies still don’t like to talk about. Hotelier’s Women in Hospitality survey 2018 showed that almost 80% of the women do not believe there is a gender disparity in the leadership of hospitality companies in the Middle East.

However, the last female CEO in the top 10 hotel companies (based on revenue, according to Bloomberg data) was Kathleen Taylor who resigned in 2013. Since there has been no woman CEO in the hospitality industry in the Middle East.

D’Cruz believes one of the reasons is the current maternity laws.

“I think the disparity of senior women in leadership roles in the industry is very clearly due to the needs of the family versus the 24-hour, non-stop nature of the hospitality industry. To state the obvious, women are the only ones who can bear children and propagate the human race and yet within many workplaces, this is still perceived as an inconvenience to the company and a decision women that have made lightly,” she said in an interview with Hotelier Middle East.

However, D’Cruz strongly believes Marriott International is one company that is ahead of the curve.

“Several major functions in Marriott International’s headquarters in the US and even here in the Dubai-based office are solely led by women. A current focus area of critical importance to Marriott International is female general managers on property,” D’Cruz adds.

Marriott has won multiple awards in this area of supporting women, including ranking in the 2018 Top 100 Best Workplaces for Women by Fortune and Great Place to Work, and in the 2017 Top Company for Executive Women by the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE).

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