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Women in Hotel Technology - Female Leaders Share Stories of Resilience and Hope

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June 10, 2022
Tech & Leadership
Fran Worrall - fran@hospitalityupgrade.com

Women are making major strides in the hospitality industry. Their strengths and abilities, which include strong communications skills and creative problem-solving approaches, are increasingly acknowledged and valued. In fact, more females than ever before are breaking the glass ceiling and rising to leadership positions within their companies, including key technology roles.

While the pandemic highlighted some of the inequalities that remain in the workforce—with women more likely than men to have lost their jobs or been furloughed—the dynamics of corporate leadership are changing, and gender equality is becoming a reality.

HU talked with three women who have reached the top of their professions in hospitality technology: Marie Bell, director of release and implementation services at Delaware North; Laura Calin, vice president of strategy and solutions management at Oracle Hospitality; and Kris Singleton, president and chief information officer at Enseo. These women discussed their career paths, some of the challenges they have encountered and the importance of mentors to their success.

Overcoming stereotypes

An IT professional for more than two decades, Marie Bell oversees release and implementation services at Delaware North, one of the largest privately owned and operated hospitality and entertainment companies in the world. Yet, despite her demonstrable abilities, she lacked self-confidence early in life.  

“Young women weren’t considered suitable candidates for technology careers,” she said, recalling a high school teacher who once accused her of cheating because there were so few errors in the code she had written. “Would that have happened if I had been a male? Probably not.”

Even as she moved into responsible career roles, Bell encountered male supervisors who threw up roadblocks, with one telling her that she was ‘too strong’ for a female and would never become a director as long as he was at the company. As a result, she didn’t believe she deserved success unless she constantly outperformed her male peers. “I spent many years being the only woman at the table, and I always felt like I had to go the extra mile to demonstrate why I wanted to do something in a certain way.”

Similarly, Kris Singleton, who took the helm last year as Enseo’s president and chief information officer, says her first major challenge was overcoming stereotypes. “It was the 1980s, and there was this idea that women couldn’t possibly be as ‘technical’ as men,” she said. During college, she was the only female in most of her computer classes. And because she was outgoing and athletic, many people underestimated both her intelligence and her drive. “Gender bias and sexism were real. Some of my professors and fellow students assumed I didn’t have what it takes to succeed in a traditionally male-dominated field.”

Still another hurdle for Singleton, especially early in her career, was finding a way to crack the old boy network. “It’s harder for women to gain trust and get in tight with male-dominated teams,” she said. Her comeback was to put all her effort into every project she undertook and then let the work speak for itself. “I knew I was good at my job; I just had to show it.”

Yet, for both women, these trials had net positive effects. “I learned to stand my ground and even to push back,” Bell said. “The roadblocks just made me stronger.”

Likewise, Singleton gained confidence every time she surmounted an obstacle. “The hard knocks boosted my resilience. I learned to use the resources around me and discovered the importance of taking risks.” In fact, she says, the challenges she encountered helped her understand other peoples’ perspectives and hone her negotiation skills. “I learned how to be a good leader through overcoming conflict.”