This year’s WITH Summit is virtual, global & diverse

Co-founders Rosanna Caira (left) and Anne Larcade. All photos: Women in Tourism & Hospitality and photographer Pam Lau.

TORONTO — The fourth annual Women in Tourism and Hospitality Summit, titled “Breaking Barriers,” will be held online and will have a global reach. It will include timely topics such as diversity and human trafficking, plus an opportunity for networking and mentorship among both women and men.

The WITH organization began because of the common ground among many senior women looking for an opportunity for both men and women to gather and address problems such as wage inequality, access to capital and discrimination. Four years ago, Anne Larcade, president and CEO of Sequel Hotels, was having cocktails with Katie Taylor, former president and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, now chair of the board of Royal Bank of Canada. When the topic of such an event came up, Taylor said she was willing to lend her brand and her reputation to the project. Larcade teamed up with Rosanna Caira editor and publisher at Kostuch Media Ltd., who immediately saw the need for such a conference. “Rosanna was ahead of her time and has been advocating for women for 25 years,” Larcade told CLN.

“Anne and I have known each other for a long time,” said Caira. “When we went to events, we would commiserate when we saw a sea of blue suits… and men. I was on board immediately and jumped in, seeing a need to help women advance in the industry.”

Peter Gillis, GM of the Westin Harbour  Castle hotel, which hosted last year’s Summit.

COVID-19 has been challenging across many segments including hospitality, and the Summit will give registrants an opportunity to have immersive discussions because of the cultural challenges across the globe, said Larcade.

“Back in the Spring, we couldn’t imagine that COVID would last this long,” said Caira. We thought it might be two or three weeks. As it became more evident… we decided on the concept of a virtual Summit, more of a global Summit. Women have been a big casualty of COVID. We already had a theme but we decided to put that on hold and pivoted to a Virtual Global Summit.”

They consulted with their advisory board and decided on a two-day program that would work across various time zones. The Summit will take place Oct. 14 and 15 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. EST. (that’s 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. PDT Vancouver; 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. BDT London; or 11:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. HKT Hong Kong).

WITH has also broadened their industry focus to include speakers and representatives from both inside and outside the hospitality industry. It will consist of two days and two different tracks. Role modelling, mentoring, dialoguing and listening will make this Summit stand out from the competition and inspire delegates, Larcade said.

Barb Stegemann delivers the keynote presentation last year.

“As of today we are up to 600 registrations thus far from across the globe,” she told CLN at press time. “We have very diverse participants from hotels, resorts, restaurant food service, banking, brokers, technology, supply chain, human capital, directors of diversity and inclusion, CEOs, CFOs, owners, entrepreneurs, tourism associations, marketing, sales, etc. We’ve also seen an increase in male participation.” Registrations have come in from across Canada, along with delegates from L.A., Texas, New York and Florida. International delegates also include representatives from Dubai, Israel, Barbados, Paris, London, Ghana, and Puerto Rico.

Speakers will also be diverse. Heather McCrory, CEO of Accor North America, will be sharing her story, provocatively titled, “From the Laundry Room to the Board Room.” There’s a panel called Rapid Fire: “Breaking Barriers / Building Resistance.” Panellists include: Rhonelle Bruner talking about her experiences with Human Trafficking; Kristina Veria, mixologist and restaurant manager; Susanne Barr, well- known chef and advocate; and Peggy Berg, chair of The Castell Project.

Berg will discuss The Castell Project’s scathing results. One of its findings was this: “While Black women and men account for one in five hospitality jobs according to the U.S. Department of Labor, our research found they are a mere one in 65 hospitality industry executives at the director level or higher.” Larcade also noted that the Project found that less than 12 per cent of women in the broader Tourism and Hospitality Industry are in C- Suite positions, and less than 1.5 per cent of those women are black or of colour.

Joanne Lipman, TV Commentator and author of “That’s What She Said,” at last year’s Summit.

There will be also be a panel on the first day that includes: Don Cleary, president of Marriott Canada; Janet Zuccarini, founder and visionary of Gusto, which has 54 restaurants; Julian Buffam, partner, New Castle Hotels & Resorts which spans the Canadian and U.S. borders; and Abigail Tan, CEO, St. Giles Hotels, U.K., which has properties worldwide.

Margo Day, the former vice-president of Microsoft and World Vision National Leadership Council member, will talk about the battle to end genital mutilation and child marriage. And, true to her promise four years ago, Katie Taylor will be on hand to give the welcome address.

To register for the Summit click here.