Photo via Hilton

Women’s History Month: Celebrating the Women of Hilton

Originally published at newsroom.hilton.com. Hilton ranked No. 2 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.

 

At Hilton, we’re committed to creating an inclusive work environment and providing opportunities for all women to thrive. To celebrate Women’s History Month, we take a glimpse back at a woman who helped to lay the groundwork for future women to succeed, then showcase current Hilton female trailblazers from across the enterprise. Read on for their stories and get inspired to achieve your own career goals.

A Look Back at a Star-Studded Pioneer

Merriel Abbot is seen below in 1949 as the only woman at an executive table full of men. Her background in precision acts and choreography made Merriel a subject matter expert in all things entertainment – prompting Conrad Hilton to appoint Merriel as director of entertainment for Hilton Hotels across the country. Her tenacity, commitment to staying modern and eye for profitability gave her a seat at the boardroom table. Merriel is one of the first examples of Hilton’s commitment to empowering women and nurturing their development.

 

Looking Forward: The Female Future of Hilton

Marwa Leffat: Chief Engineer at DoubleTree by Hilton Doha

Marwa Leffat: Chief Engineer at DoubleTree by Hilton Doha
Marwa is the first female engineer to graduate from Hilton’s Middle East & Africa Engineering Graduate Program.

What inspired you to get into hospitality?

Working in hospitality means working in a multicultural environment with amazing diversity. It teaches the importance of teamwork and gives young people the chance to travel and see the world!

How has Hilton supported you in your journey as a woman in hospitality?

Since joining Hilton in August 2016, I have been surrounded by amazing people who show me the Hilton values and have supported me at each step. Hilton gives encouragement to minorities, youth and women and provides opportunities to develop careers. I am proud to be the first female chief engineer to graduate from the Hilton MEA engineering graduate development program.

What tips would you have for other women in the hospitality business?

The keyword that I can share with women in the hospitality business is BELIEVE – believe in yourself and your capabilities. Don’t be afraid to try something new and to discover a new field.

 

Katharina Schlaipfer: General Manager at Conrad Algarve

Katharina Schlaipfer: General Manager at Conrad Algarve
Katharina is the first female general manager in the Iberian Peninsula and in the Luxury division in Continental Europe.

What inspired you to get into hospitality?

The chance to travel with Hilton and the opportunities to be exposed to new people, languages and cultures are important. Thanks to Hilton and the opportunities I’ve had to work in different countries, I now speak six languages fluently!

How has Hilton supported you in your journey as a woman in hospitality?

Since my start at Hilton, I’ve always had the same career opportunities as men. Hilton has fantastic development programs like the Shine program where you have an experienced mentor who is there to support your career growth.

What tips would you have for other women in the hospitality business?

Be someone that people want to work with. And get a mentor if you do not have one! They can help you with working on networking, developing your personal brand, and guiding you through challenging projects.

 

Punnappa Rueanphet: IT Manager of Hilton Pattaya

Punnappa Rueanphet: IT Manager of Hilton Pattaya
Punnappa is the only female certified server installer in the world.

What inspired you to get into hospitality?

I returned to my hometown Phuket in 2012, and its primary industry is hospitality. I noticed the people that chose that career path develop quickly, and that personal evolution was appealing to me!

How has Hilton supported you in your journey as a woman in hospitality?

Hilton awarded me with IT manager of the year 2018. That led me down a path to be the first woman engineer in Asia. All the training and knowledge sharing happened from top down. We share and honor our knowledge and skillsets, which transcends gender.

What tips would you have for other women in the hospitality business?

You can’t take shortcuts to your success. Don’t give up; believe in yourself – and make it happen.

 

Carla Puvarel: General Manager at Conrad Maldives

Carla Puvarel: General Manager at Conrad Maldives
Carla is the first female general manager at Conrad Maldives

What inspired you to get into hospitality?

I found a career and a lifestyle that constantly offers growth and development while living my dreams and passions. Consistently striving for greatness and providing exceptional service to our guests and leaving no room for complacency are just a few things that I really enjoy about this job.

How has Hilton supported you in your journey as a woman in hospitality?

I joined Hilton at an unprecedented time in the world and when hospitality was hit the hardest by the pandemic. The support I received from Hilton and the company’s flexibility was amazing and gave me peace of mind during the entire journey.

What tips would you have for other women in the hospitality business?

Be true to yourself, the company, stakeholders, partners, your team and your guests in a consistent, honest, fair and authentic way. The hospitality industry is a business of people serving people in a genuine manner, and exceptional service only comes from the heart.

 

Christine Ndlovu: General Manager at Hilton Garden Inn Mbabane

Christine Ndlovu: General Manager at Hilton Garden Inn Mbabane
Christine is the first female general manager in sub-Saharan Africa, at HGI Mbabane, Kingdom of Eswatini.

What inspired you to get into hospitality?

I always dreamt as a young girl to be in a job that helps others but never envisaged that hospitality would be the one. I am delighted that I found my purpose of serving others. Hospitality gives us the ability to create positive experiences through small acts of kindness, even through something as simple as a smile.

How has Hilton supported you in your journey as a woman in hospitality?

Hilton has allowed me to be myself at all times. Hilton created a tailor-made program that spoke to my personal development needs. My enrollment in Shine provided me with incredible support, and having two great mentors has been critical to my success. To be entrusted to open the first Hilton in Eswatini in my first general manager role and as the first female general manager in sub-Saharan Africa has been my biggest milestone, and for that, I will be forever grateful for the support I was given.

What tips would you have for other women in the hospitality business?

Embrace change and diversity. Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind but be led by the dreams in your heart.

 

Eugëne Middleton: Executive Chef at Hilton Garden Inn, Mbabane

Eugëne Middleton: Executive Chef at Hilton Garden Inn, Mbabane
Eugëne is a pioneer for female chefs. She was the first female executive chef at Hilton Garden Inn Lusaka, Zambia, and is the first female executive chef at her current hotel.

What inspired you to get into hospitality?

Hospitality is important to my culture. I grew up in a home abuzz with visitors, so hospitality was embedded in me ever since I can remember. This industry is so diverse, innovative and ever-changing that personal growth on an ongoing basis is inevitable.

How has Hilton supported you in your journey as a woman in hospitality?

All Hilton team members live the Hilton values every day. The Hilton company culture drives many firsts in the hospitality industry through innovation, being results-driven and encouraging team members to be the best that they can be in the work environment as well as in our personal lives.

What tips would you have for other women in the hospitality business?

Never be afraid to introspect, take a step back and reassess the direction you are going. This quote by Arianna Huffington resonates with me: “‘Restore connection’ is not just for devices, it is for people too. If we cannot disconnect, we cannot lead.”

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