“Men are welcome and encouraged to attend.”
So read the invitation to the Rhode Island's Women in Hospitality Council hospitality luncheon Tuesday at the Crowne Plaza.
And men did come to hear two leaders in the hospitality industry, both women, call on their audience to seek mentors to advance their career goals and to mentor those who follow in their footsteps.
Delivering the inspirational message were Rosalyn “Roz” Mallet, chair of the Board of the National Restaurant Association, and her longtime friend, Nancy Johnson, chair of the Board of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
Mallet, who outlined her career path – in addition to her association role, she is president/CEO of PhaseNext Hospitality – said she does what she does because she loves it.
“I’m no more special than any one of you,” she said. She urged those setting off on a career to “decide what you want to do and go after it.”
But she added, “You can’t do it alone.”
Her recommendations included pushing oneself, education and networking.
Networking brought her to the importance of organizations like Women in Hospitality that bring women together, as well as the hospitality industry.
She urged those with career goals not to “step into their job with ego” and to recognize that a title doesn’t give them control.
“Impact is where you want to be,” she said.
Her mantra: “Never be satisfied with what you did yesterday.
But for my mentors, I wouldn’t be where I am,” she said.
Mallet said there are 970,000 restaurants nationwide and 2,500 of those are in Rhode Island. She said the industry employs 13 million nationally, putting it behind health care, the largest employer industry. Of the hospitality workforce, 60 percent are women.
“We do what we do; treat customers,” she said.
Johnson, who oversees business development efforts for Carlson Hotels' select service hotel brands in the Americas, including Country Inns & Suites By Carlson and Park Inn by Radisson, said she didn’t have dreams of entering the hospitality industry. She started off as a cocktail waitress and is now executive vice president for Carlson Hotels Americas.
She became active in promoting women’s organizations within the industry.
“The problem is we don’t have visible role models for women,” she said. That is changing with Women in Hospitality, which she said has 22 chapters in this country with 2,000 women.
“Now there is a network of women who want to mentor and to be mentored,” she said.
As for advice for those seeking a career, she said, “if you have a passion for what you do, the money will come” and to have faith in themselves.
“You can have balance in your life,” she advised, “you can do what you want to do.”
Johnson also issued a call to crusade for the travel and tourism business by becoming involved in efforts to open this country to tourists by reducing taxes. She said legislators in Washington “get the importance of our industry” but need to be reminded of what it can do.
“We do not only pay minimum wage,” she said. “We start careers.”
As for who might consider a future in hospitality, Johnson said, “We want people who are hungry to make a difference.”