Janet McNab, Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park

Each year, International Women’s Day raises a variety of conversations about gender equity. In 2024, the focus is on inclusivity, with the theme ‘Inspire Inclusion’ looking at ways to combat bias, stereotypes, and discrimination in the quest for a gender equal world.

Here, Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park General Manager, Janet McNab, discussing building the female fraternity in the hotel industry and supporting under-represented women.

What does inclusivity mean to you?

Inclusivity to me means having a seat at the table, having equal opportunity and making sure that the best person for the job gets selected.  Sometimes it can be awarded to a man, even when a woman is a better candidate. However, I’m pleased to say that happens less frequently now than it did 10 years ago. True inclusion ensures that everyone feels comfortable in a space, and understands they have the opportunity to thrive – there can be no barriers in empowering people to choose their path.

Is the hotel industry inclusive to both guests and employees?

The hotel industry is one of the most proactive in promoting inclusivity when compared to other industries that traditionally attract a predominantly male workforce, like mining and construction, for example. There are many functional areas in hotels where women thrive – operations, finance, sales, marketing and importantly, in senior management. The female “fraternity” has spread throughout the entire hospitality business, it’s certainly no longer confined to commercial roles. It’s one of my passion points – mentoring and championing emerging leaders, especially under-represented women and I’ve taken a lead role at Marriott International in developing and coaching talent. I started women in leadership sessions when I worked in Asia – to build trust, confidence and support among female employees. And I’m delighted to say I remain a mentor and friend to many of those women today and many of my mentors remain close and supportive friends. Most importantly, if your team feels they are working in a truly inclusive environment, they will feel empowered to pass that on to guests.

Do you have any first-hand experiences of inclusivity or discrimination while staying in hotels or working in the industry?

I’ve not really encountered any issues travelling alone as a woman. In fact, my husband has sometimes felt the sting of an unconscious bias when we travel together, as we don’t share the same surname. People shouldn’t have any bias at all when providing service in hospitality – and that really comes down to staff training and ensuring every team member understands the global nature of travel and service. Everyone should be treated equally and with mutual respect – and that measure of equality can often start in the workplace.

How can the hotel industry do better to be more inclusive to guests and employees?

Inclusivity must be an agenda item at the Executive Level. All group and line managers must have a marker that they continually check in on to see how their team is feeling and to ensure their team is evolving and doing the right thing.

Businesses must be mindful of generational gaps and ensure senior leaders are equipped to communicate better with younger staff. A robust internal communications platform is so important. At Marriott International, we have a range of in-house training programs that encourage all team members to build confidence, upskill and cross-train to gain new skills, including management. The training programs support women to take on more senior roles. And, for me, being a female in a senior role, my focus is on building culture and developing high-performing individuals and teams, with a clear goal to ensure I am contributing to building the future of a dynamic hospitality sector.

My aim is to invest in people and develop lasting relationships beyond just business. Ultimately, your team becomes your legacy.