WITHorg Summit inspirational, practical

TORONTO — With the goal of creating action on gender bias, pay equity and workplace sexual misconduct, as well as more professional opportunities for women this second installment of the conference provided much-needed industry focus.


By Melissa Kenney

– The Women in Tourism & Hospitality (WITHorg) summit was held on June 25 at
the Four Seasons Toronto with an engaged group of over 260 attendees. With the
goal of creating action on gender bias, pay equity and workplace sexual
misconduct, as well as creating more professional opportunities for women in the
tourism and hospitality sectors, this second installment of the conference provided
a much-needed focus in an industry where women are underrepresented in senior roles.

“Having more women on a company’s
board and filling senior positions creates higher company profitability and
it’s the right thing to do,” said Anne Larcade, co-founder of WITH Summit, in
her opening address.

impressive list of speakers and panelists offered countless opportunities to empower
and share tactical, actionable steps towards an improved workplace for women.

Keynote speakers included former White House
Director of Press Advance throughout the Obama Administration, and now CEO of
Global Situation Room, Inc., Johanna Maska (photo at left); high-profile counsel, senior
partner at Henein Hutchison LLP and founder of the Ontario Court of Appeal’s
Appellate Pro Bono Program, Marie Henein; Chair, RBC and Honourary
Chair, WITH Summit, Katie Taylor; and
returning empowerment speaker Shelmina Abji.

Equally strong were the
opening and closing speeches of WITH Summit co-founders and
organizers Anne Larcade, president & CEO, Sequel Hotels and Resorts, and
Rosanna Caira, editor/publisher at Kostuch Media Ltd., publisher of Hotelier
magazine and Foodservice and Hospitality magazine. Their shared addresses informed
and invigorated the crowd.

Conference not about excluding men

“This is a conference
about empowering women, but it’s not about excluding men. Men need to embrace
this opportunity to affect positive change,” said Caira. “We are seeing changes
like never before, but our work is just beginning.”

Don Cleary, president of Marriott Hotels of Canada.

Don Cleary, president of Marriott Hotels of Canada.

The opening panel presented a wealth of knowledge and insight
from all corners of the industry, with Don Cleary, president and CEO, Marriott
Hotels of Canada; Juanita Dickson, president, Gusto 54 Restaurant Group; Reetu
Gupta, COO, The Gupta Group; and Johanna Maska. The crowd showed its support with
several rounds of applause when Cleary detailed some of Marriott’s current and
soon-to-be-introduced efforts to improve the workplace for women, including
hiring targets, no longer asking for a candidate’s salary in a previous role, soon-to-be-introduced
mandatory sexual harassment training for everyone, and geo-locators for
housekeeping staff to reach security if assistance is needed.

A wealth of breakout sessions made for tough decisions for
attendees. Highlights included the ‘Times’s Up’ panel discussion, which offered
actionable insights and key learnings from top industry leaders, and the ‘One
House’ Panel discussion, which gave relatable and honest feedback on how the
industry can foster an environment of respect in the front and back of house,
from the viewpoints of hospitality educators and industry experts.

The Katie Taylor Economic Empowerment Award was presented to
Johanne Belanger, president and CEO of Tourism Toronto. A champion of women in
the workplace and an inspirational leader, Belanger was recognized for her
numerous accomplishments, both professionally and philanthropically. She, in
turn, took the opportunity to speak about her own #MeToo moment and how it
sparked a lifelong tireless commitment to “reaching back and bringing women

The closing panel discussion, featuring insight from all corners
of the industry, was comprised of President and CEO, Hotel Association of
Canada (HAC), Susie Grynol; EVP & CCO, Air Canada, Lucie Guillemette; Taylor
and Larcade. Taylor reminded the group that, “what you don’t measure, doesn’t
get done” and encouraged attendees to set goals around hiring for talent

up the day’s events, summit co-founder Larcade gave the audience a bold
mandate, “We need action…don’t return to this conference next year without
action. The next generation is not prepared to wait for change.”

Melissa Kenney is National Director of Marketing for Travelodge Canada. She can be reached at mkenney@travelodge.ca