Marloes Ophof, Director of Operations at W Dubai – Mina Seyahi, Marriott International 

Empowering Women Leaders: Breaking Barriers and Driving Change

If you had asked me when I was growing up whether I would work in hospitality, I probably would have said no – I want to become a doctor and help people. Several years later, it turns out that I am helping people but through the wonderful ways of hospitality. 

My career journey took me into the world of hospitality from an early age by working across a variety of different departments, from an ice cream shop to a Michelin star restaurant, ultimately ending up in my current role as a Director of Operations in a 5 star luxury resort in Dubai. 

Whilst gender equality and diversity in leadership has gained significant momentum, there remains a gender gap in many sectors, including hospitality. However, the rise of female leadership and empowerment is undeniable in this sector.

Historically, the hospitality sector has been predominantly male-dominated, with women often facing barriers to advancement and representations in leadership roles. Yet, against this backdrop, we see a growing number of trailblazing women who are challenging the status quo and reshaping the landscape of this industry.

One of the most powerful drivers of change is visibility. As a female executive leader myself, I use my role as a platform to advocate diversity, inclusion and empowerment in the field of hospitality. Being asked to contribute to articles like this one allows me to make a difference and I always aim to lead by example, demonstrating operational excellence and making this career choice a clear option for women. We need to stand united together to break the glass ceiling and balance work-life demands. Being a mentor for other women creates a supportive environment where we can be empowered to succeed.

It is important to remain focused and shine as role models for aspiring women leaders. Seeing yourself in a leadership position can inspire young women to pursue careers in the hospitality industry. Adding to this, the importance of standing up for the future generation of female leaders is paramount, encouraging them to follow in your footsteps and making way for whatever is coming next. We need to continue to break down barriers and believe in ourselves to create a larger platform, voicing what we stand for. 

Lastly, we need to continue to share our success stories, continue to support each other and continue to drive change. Stay informed about the latest industry trends, seek out training or task force opportunities and be open to acquire new skills and knowledge. Don’t shy away from challenges or opportunities that push you out of your comfort zone. View them as opportunities for growth and learning, and approach them with a positive attitude and determination. But most of all: ‘be you and believe in yourself.’

“Here’s to strong women: may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.” – Unknown