Sincerely, BLLA

Persistent Empowerment & Embracing the Beauty of the Feminine

Takeaways from BLLA & TIEWN’s 2022 Women in Travel & Hospitality Conference, Issue 1 LOS ANGELES, CA – On July 11-12, 2022, the Travel I...

Takeaways from BLLA & TIEWN’s 2022 Women in Travel & Hospitality Conference, Issue 1

LOS ANGELES, CA – On July 11-12, 2022, the Travel Industry Executive Women’s Network met at both The Aster and the SLS Hotel Beverly Hills to engage in captivating dialogue and celebrate diverse leadership in travel and hospitality. Ariela Kiradjian and Frances Kiradjian, Founder and CEO of the global organization, graciously welcomed representatives of the industry to attend the 2022 Women in Travel and Hospitality Conference. This dynamic Mother-Daughter Duo has been hosting events empowering women in hospitality since 2013, and the TIEWN network has grown to include 13,000 members from around the world with a wide array of backgrounds, all at various stages in their professional careers. In an enthralling welcoming speech, Ariela introduced the theme of this year’s event, Money, Abundance, and Manifestation.

In the same address, she also took a moment to touch on the first challenge she had to overcome as a woman in the industry. “It’s honestly not easy being a mother-daughter duo when you’re putting on a hotel investment conference or you’re working with owners and operators and those in construction and development,” she explained. “It can be a turn-off to some people, and that’s fine! But, I love working with my mother, and I think that ‘motherly love’ is the energy that’s in all our businesses as well.” Regardless of these challenges, the two proudly embraced their joy of learning from and supporting one another.

Attending the TIEWN conference, one can sense the palpable truth of her sentiment. The style of leadership demonstrated throughout this event provided inclusive and almost familial mentorship – through welcoming, honest, and safe discourse. Establishing tones of radical honesty, persistent empowerment, and embracing the beauty of the feminine, invaluable insights were shared over the day and a half event between a driven network of dedicated professionals. These voices affirmed the vitality of creating spaces for women everywhere to break through glass ceilings. In fact, this idea of ‘Supporting One Another by Creating Safe Spaces’ was one of the tips Ariela presented in her opening speech. Among many positive suggestions, Ariela commenced the event by sharing 19 of her ‘favorite things learned in the past 6 months.’ Other tips included ‘Be Unapologetically You,’ ‘Find Tools to Turn on and off The Feminine and Masculine Energy’, ‘Allow for Freedom of Emotions,’ and ‘Be Self-Aware of How you Listen and Read People.’

Ariela Kiradjian, President of TIEWN and Partner & COO of BLLA

Though these tidbits were framed as a bonus feature to the established underlying values of the day: embracing the feminine, using the skills of manifestation to bring abundance, and take-home tools to continue growing, many of these 19 tips became symbolic pillars throughout the conference. As speakers from every genre of travel and hospitality offered perspectives on; business trends, women at work, and money manifestation, an approachable, safe space was quickly realized.

Watching these brilliant, articulate, and confident women reveal their tricks for succeeding in the industry felt a bit like when you were young, and your friend’s cool older sister hung out at the sleepover. Wise, insightful, and mature, you were finally able to ask burning questions about growing up. But now, these women displayed the tools to conquer financial literacy, emerging travel technologies, hotel investment, and hotel ownership landscapes. All while wearing goddess dresses and jamming out to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” The event was fun, engaging, and upbeat while still teaming with priceless lessons and compelling discussions.

A particularly honest and memorable moment, one that revealed the unavoidable truth of navigating the industry, came from a discussion between Ariela Kiradjian and Caroline Beteta, the President and CEO of Visit California. Midway through the talk titled Leading Authentically, Ariela shared a vulnerable moment she encountered when a colleague she’d previously worked alongside became unnecessarily cruel on a conference call with reputable professionals present as he intentionally embarrassed her. “Thank goodness I wasn’t on camera because my first reaction was to cry.” (Tip #9 – Allow for Freedom of Emotion). The empathetic reaction from the room spoke volumes to the unfortunate commonality of feeling talked over or stepped on in these environments (Tip #15 – Business as is, is built for men; be gentle on yourself). Ariela asked Caroline, “how do you handle situations like that?”

Her response resonated with women in every corporate space: “Here’s my secret if you’ve been asked to be at the table and someone is talking over you. A lot of people feel a propensity to get into a room and start chest beating right away. I’ve found that by going silent and just letting people get that out, especially when working with new people or a new group that you’re not used to working with, whether it’s 50 or 20, or 10. Let people speak. If you wait, suddenly, your silence starts to be noticed. Then, when you finally do speak, everybody is listening. It’s a little hat trick I’ve learned from experience.”

Ariela Kiradjian – BLLA with Caroline Beteta – Visit California

To conclude this impactful discussion, Caroline Beteta offered another gem of wisdom to up-and-coming women in travel.

“Be authentic. Believe in yourself. There must be a passion, I’m sure you’ve heard it a thousand times, but it’s true. It’s a job. It’s a career, and somebody’s paying you – so there are going to be challenges. You are going to be tested. But that’s what’s going to make you better, each iteration. I’ve certainly had that over the course of 25 years. I think if I can encapsulate it, it’s to stay measured. Head down. Be the employee that you would want when you’re the CEO one day. And if you can’t, it’s not the right marriage! Move on, go to a place that’s a supportive network where you’re inspired every day. You don’t have to stay and be angry, go chase your dream.”

Another shining moment of refreshing honesty came from Chelsea Nassib, the Founder and CEO of Tappan. During the panel interview, The Evolved Role of Art in Hospitality and Retail Design, Nassib underscored the privilege of “living in a time where women are so supportive of one another that there are forums like this to support each other and give advice. I have a small group of friends [and together] we try to create our version of the golf course.” Her comment not only alluded to the fact that business, as is, is built for men (Tip #15) but also recognized the significance of gathering and collaborating if we are to successfully change the masculine structure of the way the hospitality business operates.

Ending her address, Nassib shared another compelling foresight concerning women at work. She expressed the sentiment that often, women will wait too long to advocate for their career goals. She put forward the example of business owners asking for more funding. In instances where men confidently expect support without always having the necessary qualifications and receiving it, women tend to “carry the burden on their own back and prove something before they ask for more money.” She believes this approach is often holding women back. “Ask for what you want, go for what you want, and believe in yourself. Don’t wait for somebody to ask,” voiced the entrepreneur. Nassib recognizes the value of attuned perception.

This brings us to Tip #4 – Find Tools to Turn on and off the Feminine and Masculine Energy. When Ariela was presenting this tip, she was sure to clarify that using the terms ‘feminine and masculine’ was not implicitly gendered. “When I say feminine and masculine, this is not gender-based. Some people will call it alpha and omega, or ebb and flow … we’re just calling it feminine and masculine,” she briefly explained.

Panel with Roberto Sosa, OBRA Design Studio, and Chelsea Nassib & Lauren Stone, Tappan

Through Nassib’s experience as an artist and her business’s reputation for nurturing expression, she’s discovered the importance of knowing when it’s time to “expand our general consciousness” by engaging with beautiful art and knowing when it’s time to speak up for what is deserved. This distinction is not always clear, but with collective practice and encouraging each other’s growth, we can progress.

It’s no secret that travel and hospitality executive teams have historically been capitalized by an overwhelming masculine approach to business. However, TIEWN’s members have worked hard to change this fact and continue to grow their efforts, breaking through barriers and leading by example. Through unwavering ambition and drive, individuals in the network proudly represent the small group of women holding executive roles throughout numerous sectors. However, the shift to place deserving women in these positions is moving at a slow rate many see as unacceptable.

According to many findings, women only make up 6% of hotel CEO positions, compared to 5% in 2019 (Castell Report).  “At the director level, hotel companies are now divided nearly equally between men and women. Women are also starting to gain at the CEO level. Progress is too slow and does not reflect an industry that offers opportunities to its full roster of employees. This must change for companies to succeed in the current business climate,” says the group.

The Travel Industry Executive Women’s Network (TIEWN) is actively working to improve the narrow-minded and outdated structures preventing women from holding these executive-level roles and positively transforming the hospitality industry. Frances Kiradjian said in the opening ceremony, “I think it’s our time to speak if we’re going to achieve a more gendered balance world. We have to say it, we must talk about it. And I don’t think we do it enough, particularly in the hospitality industry. Travel is a little better, but in the hospitality industry, there are still things happening. We must speak up about it.”

Through communicating the wisdom, they cultivated from years of personal failures and successes navigating the travel and hospitality sector, these industrious women took the time to empower one another and ultimately demonstrated the unwavering endurance of feminine communities.

Fiercely led by Frances and Ariela, TIEWN’s network is inclusive and dynamic as they work to continue the legacy of extraordinary women before them, while simultaneously elevating future generations. (Tip #3 – Learn from silenced women throughout history). Although these formative lessons may be framed in the context of travel and hospitality, they are seamlessly applicable to all walks of life and have the power to change the world. If the future of feminine leadership is anything like this year’s spectacular event (which we have no doubt it will be), then we can count on an energetic, rich industry represented by a diverse group of brilliant women.

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