March has marked “Women’s History Month,” a month-long celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society. To cap off this special month, HFTP would like to honor the women of hospitality technology. You are invited to look back at extensive profiles put together by HFTP in 2019 and 2014, commemorating the distinguished women who were influential leaders of the hospitality technology industry at that time.
These special features commemorate the vital contributions made by 27 ground-breaking women in hospitality technology, who helped shape the industry through their work including: a tech expert building the next generation of property management systems, a CEO forging innovative alliances between Chinese and Western travel markets, a writer/editor who brings hospitality innovations to readers around the world, and many more.
This blog post spotlights a few of these profiles from 2019. Read about the amazing accomplishments of last year’s profiled professionals and the paths they journeyed to fill the leadership positions held at the time of publication. Then, go back farther in time and read the profiles of notable female IT executives for the year 2014.
Two factors stand out when you characterize the female professionals working in hospitality technology. One is their passion for hospitality and second, their affinity for the technical. From there their paths diverge.““Women in Hospitality Technology Feature,” HITEC Special Report, 2019
Co-founder and CMO | apaleo | Munich Germany
Getting people to the point where they understand the need for platform upgrades is Margaret Ady’s superpower.
Where once she persuaded the decision makers at giant media companies to upgrade their technology, she now persuades hotel clients for apaleo. “The right technology can cut costs, improve operations, lead to clearer business strategies, make the lives of hotel staff easier and improve the guest experience.”
Her power as a knowledgeable, authoritative voice was not as strong for Ady early in her career. As a woman, she found it hard to be heard. And even though she is now looked to as an expert, she sees that today women still have to fight harder to prove themselves.
Ady realizes that it is going to take more than a strong will to change attitudes and level the playing field. Rather, the industry needs more women to join the field and move into leadership positions. Understanding this, Ady has taken this idea outside of the workplace. She mentors girls and teens, tutoring them in math and science — perhaps ushering in a new generation of leaders.
CEO | Compass Edge Ltd | Hong Kong, China
Being on the leading edge of digital trends requires expertise and lots of enthusiasm for “what comes next.” Both of those traits are what have pushed Anita Chan to the top of digital marketing in the hospitality industry.
At Compass Edge, she is bridging the West with China digitally with GO CHINA — providing independent hotels with strategies to capture the growing Chinese outbound tourist market. “I am from the generation when the World Wide Web got its start, with excitement centering around websites, digital solutions, etc. I always like to learn the newest and latest.”
Chan has forged a prolific path trending upwards in hospitality technology to become CEO at Compass Edge Ltd. She has transformed the company from a central reservations system (CRS) re-seller to a business that provides online and marketing distribution services and a China-ready strategy for independent hotels.
“The challenge to capturing the Chinese digital market is for Western businesses to recognize and accept that the Chinese ecosystem is different,” observes Chan, “and a different strategy is needed to be successful in China.”
Vice President, Distribution | MGM Resorts International | Las Vegas, Nevada USA
Sarah Fults finds integration her greatest challenge, making new technology jibe with the old. And while she is excited at the prospects of new tech, including AI and voice, Fults shows most excitement over the “smart hotel,” where rooms, for instance, will conform to guests’ tastes. As an avid traveler herself, Fults relishes the future of personalization and the way it will transform and propel the customer experience.
The field of hospitality technology has historically been male-dominated; that is changing, but Fults, a 24-year industry veteran, has never let it affect her. She did that by being assertive in order to be heard, but not so assertive as to sound offensive. Today, her biggest protestation is pay inequality, a persistent issue across industries which she finds inexplicable in this day and age.
Her advice for women just starting in hospitality: Be confident, learn from everyone, believe in yourself and know that you deserve to have a seat at the table.
CIO | Restaurant Brands International | Toronto, Ontario Canada
Kelly MacPherson sees the importance of learning new technologies that will focus on guest behaviors and deliver a customized experience. She works to upgrade her company’s legacy technology to meet the needs of their guests, breaking down the barriers and traditional ways of problem solving to deliver what guests are demanding. “Our industry is fully driven by data, and that means we need to excel at one-to-one marketing, CRM and machine learning, all with the goal of delivering a distinctive guest experience,” MacPherson says.
She credits her success to her team — a diverse set of individuals from all over the world. She invests in talent and makes sure they are constantly learning. MacPherson is intent in keeping the work interesting and engaging, including using AI to allow the team to focus on strategic change.
Vice President, Hotel Technology| Aimbridge Hospitality | Dallas, Texas USA
Keryn McNamara’s expertise and leadership were put to the test in 2013 when her current employer Omni Hotels & Resorts acquired a number of resorts at once and needed to integrate and convert their technology over to Omni’s. “Through this process, we learned about our systems and procedure efficiencies, but it also opened up our thinking about adopting and implementing technology that these resorts were already using.
“I’m most proud of the fact that our small team worked hand-in-hand to accomplish this transition in such a short amount of time while still providing excellent support to the 30+ properties we had at the time.”
McNamara turned this challenge into a major accomplishment, and this achievement, along with several other successful projects, led to promotions to director, and finally vice president of hotel technology. Every-evolving hospitality technology is essential to operations. With a thoughtful strategy dedicated to the guest experience, McNamara continues to lead her team in the push for the innovations of tomorrow.
SVP | Managing Editor, Hospitality Upgrade Magazine | Roswell, Georgia USA
In hospitality, there are those who make it run and those who report the race. For just shy of a quarter century now, Geneva Rinehart at Hospitality Upgrade magazine has made it her business to track the trends, speak to the influencers and produce content related to the always-changing world of hotel technology.
Rinehart not only grasps technology – she knows how to write about it in a way that is understandable and even enjoyable to read. “I love our industry use of ‘jargon’ and the fact that there’s always some ‘buzz’ about something. The industry is never boring and it’s constantly evolving.”
When she first started in publishing, it was at a major turning point. The rise of the Internet allowed Hospitality Upgrade (officially launched in the year 2000) to be one of the first industry publications with a website covering hotel technology. Publishing continues to evolve and the need for more content, faster content and personalized content keeps Rinehart and the Upgrade team busy.
The technology they report on has also come far since her first days at the magazine. Today, she is most fascinated with aspects such as mobile technology and AI, and the fact that she can literally conduct about 90 percent of her job from a smartphone.
Briana Gilmore is the HFTP Communications Coordinator. Briana can be reached at Briana.Gilmore@hftp.org or +1 (512) 220-4017.