Originally published on LinkedIn. Ty Breland is the EVP and Chief Human Resources Officer at Marriott. Marriott International is a Hall of Fame company.
“Be an opener of doors.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Last month, Marriott International announced the first woman to be appointed General Manager in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Marina Krasnobrizhaya, a long-time Marriott International hotel leader, has been named General Manager of the St. Regis Riyadh Hotel, slated to open this summer. While this is a great announcement, the very fact that Marina is the first woman GM points to the fact that we still have work to do. But a door has been opened, and as we pause to recognize International Women’s Day, I want to celebrate that and also share how we plan to keep that door open.
Late last year, I had the privilege to meet with graduates of Marriott’s Tahseen program in Riyadh. Tahseen — which in Arabic means to improve, enhance or enrich — is our hospitality training program that was developed in partnership with Cornell University to focus on fast-tracking the next generation of local hospitality leaders in the Middle East.
At Marriott, we have long believed, as Mr. Emerson suggests, in being an opener of doors, of providing access to opportunity. That takes a lot of different forms, but a principal way we do that is by investing in the development of local leaders in the countries where we operate.
Started in the Kingdom and expanded to Bahrain and Egypt, the Tahseen program provides talented young people with first-hand hospitality experience and an opportunity to rise quickly into leadership roles within the industry. The program is individualized as it rotates participants through well-rounded practical application across all departments — like food and beverage, operations and human resources — and provides leadership development within Marriott properties. More than just top talent for Marriott, Tahseen graduates are local ambassadors for what success can look like in the hospitality industry.
Spend a few minutes with our Tahseen graduates and it’s easy to see their passion for hospitality and this program. They are hardworking, capable and ambitious. It’s fair to say that many picture themselves as General Managers of a hotel one day and Tahseen gives them a springboard to do just that.
The program boasts impressive statistics: 300 graduates across the region since it started five years ago; retention rates of over 70%; and a third of our graduates have been promoted. While Tahseen is open to male and female college graduates, in Saudi Arabia, women took the opportunity to lean into the program and currently they make up 50% of the program’s participants, marking the highest enrollment of women into the program since its launch in 2018.
These women are optimistic about their futures because they are empowered with the knowledge, skills and experience to accelerate in leadership roles within the industry. Soon they’ll have a new role model in market as Marina takes the helm at the St. Regis Riyadh, and that’s exciting.
At Marriott International, we believe in opening doors to opportunity and building work environments where women thrive, and Tahseen is a great example of one of the ways we are doing that. This International Women’s Day I’m grateful for our Tahseen graduates — I am following your careers and can’t wait to return to Saudi Arabia and see where your journeys take you.