The 2024 Women to Watch Index Launch Event

A highlight in the WiHTL & DiR calendar is the launch of the annual Women to Watch Index and this year is no exception. The incredible energy and wisdom in each and every interview with the 100+ women featured in the Index is only matched by bringing these extraordinary women together at the in-person event – this year at the fabulous DWF offices in the Walkie Talkie Building in London – to celebrate their achievements.

Through showcasing the variety of roles and careers that women have across our industry, women who have not only succeeded in their own careers and are setting an example for more junior colleagues, it is fantastic to note their collective generosity of spirit and the candid accounts of their own journeys. In doing so, they are removing stigmas around what – and how – women can achieve their professional goals.

I truly think I could have benefitted from seeing more women leaders and role models, especially in my early career. Now, I want to be that inspiration and role model to others. Reading last year’s Women to Watch Index, I was inspired by each leader’s unique path.” Alexandra Mendel, VP Buying, Planning, Programming, QVC (UK)

Women in Technology and Engineering

For the first time, the Index this year features an additional focus on women in Technology and Engineering to celebrate those making career moves into this traditionally male-dominated area. We list women in HTL and Retail with job titles such as: CIO; Avionics Design & Development Engineer; Senior Director of Energy & Environment and VP, Technology & Change. Those who are featured have moved into the 26% of women who are steadily making gains within STEM – up from just 19% in 2019. It is inspirational to read how women are taking a non-traditional education and career route to contribute their individuality, their knowledge and their skills to this rapidly evolving technological era.

“In STEM, I strive to defy norms, not only as a woman but also across various dimensions of diversity such as personality, socio-economic background, education and ethnicity.” Poonam Chauhan, Head of Technology Operations, Moto Hospitality

Key points throughout the Index include:

Hearing from the W2W event speakers

Opening the launch, Tracey Groves, Head of Sustainable Business & ESG Advisory Practice and Partner at DWF emphasised the impact of storytelling in a business environment: “Tell your story. We all have such powerful experiences and they bring meaning and significance as you cannot deny an experience. By telling your story, you’ll never know what impact it will have on others.”

Elliott Goldstein, Managing Partner at The MBS Group described how the amazing stories shared within the Index enriches all those who read them and shared his hope that the still relatively small number of women leaders in the Technology and Engineering section will inspire others to join these exciting functions and help it grow in the future. “I challenge you all to step in and take responsibility for paving the way for others.”

The first of the keynote speakers, Steve Cassidy, MD of Hilton (UK & Ireland) and Chair of UKHospitality highlighted how leaders in the Index bring the HTL sector to life and show how the hospitality industry is full of opportunity for everyone to build a career. “We are diverse by nature but inclusive by choice.”

Keynote speaker Kari Daniels, CEO of SSP (UK & Ireland), echoed Steve’s sentiments: “As a leader, everything you say and do will have an impact – we cast big shadows. We can plan the big moments but the most lasting interactions are seldom those: it is at the coffee machine or random encounters which can count most.”

Panel discussion

WiHTL & DiR Director Joanna Auñon hosted a panel discussion with three women featured in the Index: Juliett Cattermole, CPO at David Lloyd, Chiho Sakumi, Director of Technology for QVC Japan and Sarah Taitt, Property Director. Each gave their reaction to being a Woman to Watch and their insights on what needs to change to inspire more women entering the hospitality, travel, leisure and retail sectors in order for them to reach the highest levels.

Juliett Cattermole said: “It's great to meet like-minded women and a sense of opportunity and responsibility that we can’t take lightly. We need to support and develop future leaders.”

Chiho Sakumi said: “I've been working for over 20 years in technology, and the fact I can be a role model for Japanese women is incredible. The journey has not been easy, but I had great support from bosses and allies. You can make your own way.”

Sarah Taitt said: “This is a personal accomplishment for me, being a Black female in a male-dominated industry and to inspire women to step forward. The stats are, unfortunately, not shocking. There is a whole list of things we need to change. We need to remove gender stereotypes and promote equity and equal opportunities. We also need to get the right support in place and create an environment to help diverse talent to flourish. We need to be brave and courageous about calling things out.”

A final word

Closing the launch event, Tea Colaianni, Founder/Chair of WiHTL & DiR spoke of the four elements making up this year’s Index: a celebration of what the women featured have achieved; being role models and an inspiration to younger women; a time for reflection on the challenges which career women in the future may have to overcome, and finally, taking action through mentoring other women, and using their voice for the benefit of others. When you lift up women, you lift up humanity.”

Our special thanks
We are particularly grateful to DWF and Tracey Groves for their kindness and support in hosting the Women to Watch event; to keynote speakers, Steve Cassidy and Kari Daniels; to panel speakers, Chiho Sakumi, Juliett Cattermole and Sarah Taitt, and finally to Elliott Goldstein and his team at The MBS Group for their incredible work in pulling together this latest Index.

The 2024 Index celebrates senior women leaders and their impact across the Hospitality, Travel, Leisure and Retail sectors. Through showcasing the variety of roles and careers that women have across our industry, we also hope to provide inspiration to women at the earlier stages of their career about the opportunities our industry can provide.

This year, for the first time, the Index will feature an additional focus on women in Technology and Engineering to celebrate those making moves in this traditionally male-dominated area.