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We don’t have a lot of global holidays, do we?  Days where something is universally agreed upon or celebrated?  In the global scheme of things anymore we are rarely on the same page, which is what makes me excited for events such as International Women’s Day.  The recognition by countries across the globe tells me that there is an acknowledgement of how important women are to this world, and how that was overlooked for far too long.

A lot has changed for women worldwide in just the last 100 years, and while equality is still something that we have to remind ourselves of, rather than do automatically, women have begun to take more leadership roles in all industries.  Hospitality is no different, in an industry that in the past seemed to be dominated by men, Sage Hospitality Group is proud to support the expansion of female leaders in our hotels.  These women create space for others, not just in our company but outside of it, by creating and inspiring future leaders by showing that the path is open to all of us, not just some.

That is why we celebrate, not just on International Women’s Day, but every day!  We at Sage know that a conscious effort must be made to create a diverse team of associates and to make everyone feel that they belong within our work-family.  We created IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity, and awareness) to keep our progress in check and to build a structure in which we could further develop training opportunities, scholarships and best practices related to the IDEA goals.  Gender equity and equality continues to be something we focus on as the industry has room to grow.  As we hire female leaders, we make sure to tell their story, as every leader works hard to get where they are and they should be celebrated!

In May of last year, we welcomed a number of female leaders to the Sage Operations team.  To celebrate the success of women everywhere on International Women’s Day we followed up with a few of them  to see how it’s going and to get their take on what it means to be a woman in a hospitality leadership position today.

Amber Davis – Area General Manager, Atlanta, GA – 12 years in hospitality

How has your experience as a leader at Sage been so far?

My experience as a leader at Sage has been extremely rewarding.  Joining Sage, I was excited to align myself with a company that has values similar to mine.  Being a part of Sage truly enriches my life, which inspires me each and every day to enrich other’s lives as well.

What challenges/advantages do you believe being a female leader in hospitality presents?

There are often times preconceived notions that female leaders are “softer”, more emotional or not as effective as our male counterparts. This creates a challenge to build respect within the workplace.  However, the preconceived notion of a motherly intuition can be used as an advantage to create a familial, caring atmosphere, where feedback is taken more effectively.

What is your hope for female leadership development in our industry for the future?

My hope for female leadership development in our industry is that there are no preconceived notions or stereotyping based upon gender, age, race, orientation, etc., and that all industry professionals are able to build a respective reputation through their professional successes.  My hope is that women will hold equal positions to men, and the ratio in all roles in the industry are even- that men feel comfortable in a room attendant position, or women feel confident to succeed in an engineering role.  Sage Hospitality Group is an industry leader in diversity, and scanning the room at our most recent Sage Leadership Festival shows that women are equally appreciated, valued and rewarded in our organization.

Courtney Whitehead -  General Manager at Homewood Suites Boulder, Boulder, CO – 13 years in hospitality

How has your experience as a leader at Sage been so far?

I have been with Sage since 2017 and have enjoyed my experience so far! I like that they promote within and focus on developing the current team members into future leaders.

What challenges/advantages do you believe being a female leader in hospitality presents?

The lack of women in leadership roles; mainly in General Manager roles and corporate roles. I would like to recognize though that my hotel is unique; the Vice President of Operations, General Manager, Director of Operations and Director of Sales are all women.

What is your hope for female leadership development in our industry for the future?

My hope is that more women will take on leadership roles. Currently, there is still a high percentage of men in full-service General Manager roles and high-level corporate roles. I would like to see an emphasis on mentoring women into future leaders in the hospitality industry.

Lizzie Raudenbush – Chief Happiness Officer (General Manager) at The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO - 10 years in hospitality

How has your experience as a leader at Sage been so far?

I love working for Sage as it is a company with a strong moral compass and tremendously accomplished leaders to learn from.  I appreciate that we celebrate fun while also celebrating high performance.  The support I have felt from this Sage family as I have transitioned into a new role over the last year has been incredible.  I can feel everyone’s hands on my back, supporting me, checking in with me, and lending their advice and expertise.  I am proud to work somewhere I can be wildly creative, challenge the status-quo, and shake things up.

What challenges/advantages do you believe being a female leader in hospitality presents?

For me, the greatest challenge in being a female General Manager in Hospitality has been the 24/7 nature of our business – I am a single mom to a toddler, so when there are days I need to work late, work weekends, or work anytime outside of bankers hours, it quickly becomes a chaotic juggling act.

On the flip side, an advantage I have found to being a female leader in this space is that I have first-hand experience needing to have a work-life balance and I am passionate about my team experiencing the same.  When I am here, I am here, engaged and inspired by our #StayHappy crew every day.  When I am home, I am home, enjoying life with a 3-year-old.  I need all sides of myself – Chief Happiness Officer at The Curtis, Mason’s Mommy, Adventure/Travel lover and wannabe ski/surf bum to be truly fulfilled.  Because I know this about myself, my leadership style reflects this as a core-value.

What is your hope for female leadership development in our industry for the future?

We first need to be champions for change, because women left the workforce in disproportionately high numbers due to COVID and related issues.  How do we, as a progressive and inclusive company, continue to lead the way in making changes that support women in the workplace?  How do we support women who are looking to re-enter the workforce?  I have some ideas, and would love to hear yours – my email is lizzie.raudenbush@thecurtis.com.


We have a long list of amazing hires and promotions this year as well, including:

Courtney Griffith – General Manager at Catbird, Denver CO

Maryam Seifi – Regional Director of Operations

Amy Healy,Hotel General Manager at Hotel Indigo Denver

Ann Heinzer,Hotel General Manager at AC Hotel Minneapolis

Melanie Hofer, Hotel General Manager at ES Bethesda

Rachel Wilson, Hotel General Manager at The Hotel Zags

Isabel Bishop, General Manager  at the Moxy Denver

Lisa DeRosa,  General Manager for The Corner Office Restaurant + Martini Bar

Nicole Balestrere, General Manager for Urban Farmer and Departure Portland

Tara Balthazor, Restaurant GM at ninetwentyfive

Jessica Chapman, General Manager of Food & Beverage for Kachina Cantina and Poka Lola Social Club

Shara Dowd, Restaurant General Manager, Toro

I am elated to say that these women are only a small fraction of our operation’s female leadership work force and we are adding more future leaders every day.  Not everyone is hired in a leadership role, but here at Sage our goal is to enrich our associate’s lives, by providing new experiences and opportunities.  We believe that by providing our team room to grow and be happy, our customers are the beneficiaries of that energy.  I look forward to the future where things continue to become more inclusive, diverse and equitable for all, and I look forward to being part of that at Sage Hospitality Group.

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