Women in the Workplace
As featured in the October Edition of Shanghai Family Magazine
[Full Interview Text]
Can you introduce yourself to our readers please?
EE: My name is Elizabeth Espinosa and I am from Orlando, Florida. I moved from Dubai to Shanghai almost 7 years ago as part of my career journey working in luxury hotels.
How did you end up working in hospitality?
EE: I started university as a Psychology major because I love to study people and human nature, but I did NOT enjoy writing academic papers! So, my university guidance counselor suggested to consider a Business degree and to explore hospitality because it is an industry that combines people and business. I took her advice and my first “official” industry job was as a College Program Intern in Fine Dining at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. My internship experience not only opened my eyes to the global influence of hospitality on culture, cuisine and “experience-making”, but it also opened my eyes to the business of managing a hospitality operation.
How long have you been working in the field?
EE: It has been more than 15 years since my internship with The Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida and have I since worked with luxury hotels in the U.S., Dubai and most recently, The Ritz-Carlton, Pudong until 2017. Inspire Hospitality was launched in 2018, and I now get to support the industry in an entirely new way through consulting, hosting industry events, and eventually owning and operating hotels.
What motivates you to do what you are doing?
EE: It has been my honor to be able to create magic every day, learn about people from all over the world, and most importantly, to be able to give genuine care to others.
Hospitality has become my form of philanthropy and I consider the work we do in our industry to be truly noble work.
Yes, the hospitality industry can be challenging and tiring, but I believe our industry is ripe for innovation as it relates to re-thinking the way we operate hotels, manage people and becoming more efficient in our work. It’s something I think about all the time, and this topic has become very much a part of my preparation for becoming a future hotel owner.
What’s the ratio in your workplace to male/female?
EE: As a start-up, we are a lean team with a male/female ratio of 1:2. Whenever we are hiring new talent or bringing on volunteers for our events, I consider it my responsibility to support our HR Manager with the tools/resources she needs to ensure our team is diverse and that everyone has equal opportunity to grow with Inspire Hospitality.
Can you tell us more about women in hospitality?
EE: For most of my career (and for most people), when you say the words “General Manager of a hotel”, I instinctively thought of a man. Even though women comprise more than 50% of global tourism and hospitality employees, they only represent less than 5% of global executive roles and on average earn 14.7% less than men. Having worked in the US, Middle East and China, I have been the young female mid-level manager working my way through leadership roles with few female role models at the top. I know how it feels to feel lost, to need a mentor who is not your boss and to try my hardest to balance my personal life with work.
Our decision to host the Inspire Women in Hospitality Forum in 2019 came from these experiences most women have as they navigate their careers in our industry. We wanted to provide a platform for mid-level and senior leaders to develop leadership and team management skills and to expand their professional network. After conducting a survey following our first IWH Forum, it turned out most men in our industry have the same leadership needs and we will therefore expand our Forum 2021 to be more inclusive for all hospitality leaders.
What are the obstacles you have come across in your career?
EE: I remember running around each day like a rat in a cage just trying to keep up with work, home, social life and all the pressure I put on myself to be the best that I can be in everything. I used to feel like time was something I never had control of and that what I enjoyed doing as hobbies or for my health were never a priority.
Finally, I just got sick and tired of feeling sick and tired all the time. I decided I needed to make an urgent change.
I have been keeping a daily journal since I was 10 years old, and when writing, I would ask myself,
“What contribution can I make to this world?
What am I really passionate about?
What do I need to do each day to get closer to achieving my goals?”
I had to evaluate exactly how I was using my time and identify the people and activities in my life that were keeping me from achieving my goals. Even though I had accomplished so much up until that point in my career, I realized then, that there was so much more I could do with the right focus, the right use of time, and surrounding myself with the people who inspire me to be better.
How did you overcome when you felt undervalued?
EE: I am someone who is constantly thinking and questioning, and I remember when I was still a junior manager, I had shared some ideas with my boss in a meeting and he totally shut me down in front of my male peers. I remember the way he responded to me was so piercing and I felt incredibly hurt and embarrassed by that experience. When I left the meeting, I was in tears and angry at myself for being so upset. But I also had to return to work and be in front of guests and my team. Close to the end of my shift, I could hardly stand the anger I had boiling inside of my chest, and I sent a message to my boss to ask him for a moment to speak privately. When we met, I shared how much I have learned from him and appreciated his expertise, but that I did not appreciate the way he spoke to me in front of my peers every time I shared an idea or opinion. He was genuinely unaware of and surprised by how much that affected me, and he was very apologetic. Even though I felt a burden lift from my chest by speaking up, I filed that experience away in my mind and I never forgot how it made me feel. I reference that feeling each time one of my team members speaks up or shares an idea with me so that I can remember to remain open, supportive and respectful.
Lastly, what advice would you like to give for young professional women?
EE: Be intentional with your time and be true to your values - ALWAYS.
Thank you to Gina Batmunkh, Editorial Assistant, for delivering the copies of the magazine to Inspire Hospitality!
To learn more about Shanghai Family Magazine or to request a copy of the October 2020 Edition, please visit https://www.shfamily.com/