By Colleen Isherwood
TORONTO — Statistics Canada released a report last week saying that just 19.4 per cent of corporate board members are women and 57 per cent of boards have no female members. With such discouraging numbers, this year’s Women in Tourism and Hospitality Summit, to be held May 26-27 at the Westin Harbour Castle, is especially timely.
This will be the third edition of the summit, which is the brainchild of Anne Larcade of Sequel Hotels & Resorts and Rosanna Caira of Kostuch Media Limited.
In a recent interview, Larcade explained how the summits started. “I had the idea percolating around in my head for some time many years ago. I talked to Katie Taylor [chair of the board of the Royal Bank of Canada and former CEO of Four Seasons]. I was very interested in advancing the role of women in hospitality. The statistics on equality and pay equity show that we are facing similar challenges globally — the statistics didn’t change that much country to country. Katie was very encouraging — she said if we held an event, she would be there.”
Larcade needed a partner, and reached out to Caira, whom she’d known for her entire career, and whose role as a networker and “glue in the industry” aligned with the principles of the event Larcade was planning. “I approached Rosanna and she was emphatic in saying she’d love to participate.
“We wanted to seize the moment and call upon thought and business leaders to operate gender inclusive cultures,” Larcade said. “Research shows that gender diverse teams make better decisions, and drive higher levels of innovation and higher profitability. It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s an incredibly smart business strategy.”
The theme of this year’s summit is “Stand Up, Stand Out,” featuring two very different keynote speakers, Joanne Lipman and Barb Stegemann.
Lipman, who is the former editor in chief for USA Today and The USA Today Network, began her career at the Wall Street Journal as deputy managing editor, the first woman in that position. She was the founding editor in chief for the Conde Nast Portfolio magazine and website, and she has written a book titled, That’s what she said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together. In the book and in her presentation, Lipman explores how men, as well as women, can join together to close the gender gap. She offers surprising insights into issues ranging from unconscious bias to childrearing to brain differences between the genders and provides practical tips to help eliminate bias in the workplace.
“We are so fortunate that she is coming from New York to share her findings and experience, and her expertise from a brand perspective,” Larcade said.
Stegemann is a single parent of two children, who comes from Halifax. Her best friend, Captain Trevor Greene, went to Afghanistan wanting to make peace, not war, and ended up with a Taliban axe in his head. Miraculously, he survived to see his friend Barb carry on his peace mission with a new strategy – perfume.
Stegemann decided to take what the Taliban loves most, the poppy crop, by purchasing rose and orange blossom oils, which pay Afghan farmers twice the income over illegal poppies. As Greene recovered physically, rebuilding his brain, Stegemann helped rebuild in Afghanistan and Rwanda. This story was the subject of a film titled Perfume War — An unlikely weapon in the fight for world peace.
Stegemann has also written a book, The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen, that has empowered women to launch companies, run for office and end bullying.
“So one speaker helps us in business and one helps as a social entrepreneur,” Larcade said.
This year’s summit is more guest centric and has broadened its industry and geographic focus. People are now attending the Summit from all over North America and Europe.