The hotel industry is still very much dominated by men at the very top. But this month, Hotel Scotland takes a look at some great female general managers who are definitely making their mark.
Citizen M, Glasgow
Citizen M Glasgow GM Amanda Rennie, 35 (pictured), from Glasgow started off in the hotel business sixteen years ago.
She said, “I started my hotel experience part-time in the Hilton Hotel while studying and spent the next 10 years managing restaurants, cocktail bars and nightclubs. At Citizen M we are constantly evolving and I personally intend for Glasgow to lead the way.”
Amanda has her own style of management. She comments, “I have always been a generalist and a problem solver and I get such pleasure from developing people and helping unlock potential. The ability to deliver a unique guest experience has always been in me and the role of a GM was always one I was attracted to.”
She admits it’s sometimes hard to relax after a busy day. “I have always struggled to relax. However, having recently had a baby it seems I will never have proper downtime again. I can now spend a whole day with my family doing very little and feel extremely relaxed.”
Her advice to other females keen to become General Managers is ‘Don’t try to hide the feminine qualities you have.’
She added, “Embrace your own style and play to your strengths. Also, being a mother and a GM gives you a unique outlook on both your business and family.”
Hotel Du Vin, Glasgow
Marianne Clave 41, is the GM at Hotel Du Vin and began her career at One Devonshire Gardens in 1996.
She’s been a GM since 2004 and admits getting into the industry was a lucky accident.
She said, “I was studying history and sociology at Glasgow Uni and got a job in a hotel bar and loved it. I didn’t look back.”
Marianne admits the job is demanding and keeps her on her toes.
She says, “Hotels never close so you are never off duty and emails come in all the time. Dealing with the general public can be challenging but it keeps the job interesting and you never have the same day twice.”
Marianne juggles her work with her family life. She says, “I have two small children and a poor husband who helps me with them and very little time for anything else, but it is possible. It’s important that as a female GM you don’t have to behave like a man. I’ve worked for some women who think they need to be like a man but it’s really just having the best person for the job.”
Marianne has various plans for the hotel in coming months including a refurb and says the most important thing is to let staff spread their wings and grow.
Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian
Dale MacPhee (left) is probably one of the most high-profile GM’s in Scotland. She is the boss at Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian. However, she began her career 24 years ago as a front desk hotel receptionist in Canada where she grew up.
Now 48, Dale who graduated in Political Science at Dalhousie University has worked around Europe for the last seventeen years and now holds British citizenship, having arrived in the U.K. In 2004 and Scotland in 2013.
She said, “I have worked for Hilton Worldwide since joining its luxury division, Waldorf Astoria 9 years ago. This was a significant milestone because I became the first female General Manager within the division.”
Dale wanted to become a GM to impact the overall business. She says, “I wanted to oversee the whole business and mentor and develop young talent. I love dealing with different departments and challenges on a daily basis; the quick turnaround that being the General Manager of a hotel needs, forcing me to switch in a second from a Housekeeping related issue to Sales or PR – I love the fast paced industry and wouldn’t want it any differently.”
In between work Dale spends some quality time with her teenage son and husband, reading and going for long walks with her dog.
Her message to other budding female Gms, “Don’t give up; don’t be afraid of any “men friendly” industry; do your homework – information is power – and leave your mark.”
Busby Hotel, Busby
Juliet Parry (right), 40, from Newton Mearns is the current GM of the award-winning Busby hotel and eats, sleeps, and breathes her job. She said, “I came back from travelling in Israel when I was eighteen and worked as a waitress at the Moat House then became restaurant supervisor and worked my way from there.”
Having worked at the Marine Hotel in Troon and Millennium hotel in Glasgow, Juliet joined the Busby Hotel from Parklands just over a year ago.
She said, “I stick around places quite a long time and I enjoy every part of my job. I enjoy giving customer care and guest satisfaction and building a team. At the Busby, it is twenty-four seven and my door is always open. I’ve liked developing a team and people I’ve worked with in the past tend to follow where I go.”
Juliet, who is a mum to a six-year-old and ten years old, makes a point of spending quality time with her children each week.
She said, “My husband is a pastry chef in the hotel industry too and he works five days a week, 6am – 3pm. But I don’t go to work on Saturdays until 3pm and plan my other days off. You have to have a work-life balance.”
Juliet advises any budding GMs to ‘go for it’. She said, “Don’t let anything stop you. I strived to be a GM all my life and my ambition now is to have two or three hotels. I’ve enjoyed the fact that I have helped turn the Busby around, and I do work with a fantastic team.”
Blairquhan Castle, Maybole
GM of Blairquhan Castle Nan Li, 36, moved to the UK from China to start her hotel career.
Nan originally had a degree in hospitality management and was working in hotels in England before coming to Strathclyde University for her masters. After graduating in 2006 she got her first job as a sales coordinator in budget hotels in Glasgow and did this for two years before working her way up through various hotels. She joined Blairquhan Castle three years ago in July.
She told Hotel Scotland, “I liked hotel sales and meeting different people and working with different clients and managing accounts.”
But she reckons the standards of hotels in the U.K. still fall behind those in Asia. She comments, “I’ve never worked in China and my education was all in the U.K. but the standards of hotels are very different in this country. Aside from a few prestige hotels, five-star hotels here tend to be converted old buildings, whereas most five star hotels in Asia have been built from scratch at a five-star level.”
Nan claims budding GMs need to passionate about their work.
She said, “I think first off you need to be very interested in the industry. You don’t get good pay to start off with but if you are persistent and set targets you will succeed. Don’t give in and have a vision.
She adds, “If you are good enough it will not matter if you are male or female in this industry. There are quite a few female GMs now and their advantage is that they understand emotion better than men and are often more sympathetic. There are advantages and disadvantages. Maternity leave can still affect your career path so you have to be realistic.”
Dalziel Park Hotel, Motherwell
Joanna Spencer, 40 has been GM of Dalziel Park Hotel since 2013 but started in the industry 22 years ago.
Her hotel has 14 boutique rooms, a 9 hole golf course, 3 function suites – which can hold weddings and celebrations up to 320, and a busy bar, brasserie and restaurant.
She said, “I worked in a pub as a student at 18 and have not left the industry since. My first degree was in Pharmaceutics with a postgrad in Hospitality Management – I decided my career was in Hospitality after I decided that pharmaceutics wasn’t particularly exciting. I thought working on the coalface with customers was much more dynamic, and it is.
Joanna loves the fact that every day is different and she enjoys being involved in affecting change and making progress in both value terms and financial terms.
She comments, “There are so many facets to the role that no day is ever the same. There are always different opportunities, successes and challenges. I like to drive my team towards overcoming all of these. The MD walked in last week when the groom forgot his wedding music, and I was downloading songs from Spotify to my phone. She said that’s customer service for you”. It is to me too. It’s an everyday part of my role and I wouldn’t swap it for the world.”
Joanna says she is surrounded by other strong females in the industry.
She added, “When I joined the industry just about all GM’s were male. Now I now work in an environment where four out of five GM’s in the company are female. There is no reason any man or woman cannot do what they want to achieve.”
Loch Ness Inn, Drumnadrochit
Dorothy MacLean, 40, from Dingwall is GM of The Loch Ness Inn and has been in the hotel business for over twenty years.
Dorothy, who studied hospitality and tourism at Queen Margaret College in Edinburgh began her career in hospitality at the age of 18 at the Sheraton Grand in Edinburgh, and within a few short years had been appointed to the role of GM at the Express by Holiday Inn in Glasgow.
She said, “I wanted to work with people and liked the variety really because I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do at that point.”.
She then took on the GM post at the Thistle Inverness before moving to The Loch Ness Inn three months ago.
She said, “The hotel was already a very successful business and I’m hoping to enhance it with a few more tweaks. It is a smaller business that is privately owned, so it is a lot different from working with a big chain.”
Dorothy reckons it was more difficult being a female head of department than a female GM. She explained, “There were more barriers looking after a specific department because the way older guests sometimes approach you is different. They are often looking for a man and may choose a waiter with a waistcoat over speaking to you. Being GM is better and it’s rewarding. It’s hard work but if you have the right personality it sometimes goes a long way. I actually don’t know if there is another job like it – every day is completely different and it keeps me on toes.”
Hotel Indigo, Edinburgh
Managing the 60-bedroom boutique Indigo Edinburgh is the latest challenge for Lynsey Findlay.
Scots-born Lynsey, who studied an HNC in Travel & Tourism from Fife College, hasn’t stopped since she graduated and has been at the helm of several hotels in the Splendid hotel family.
Having worked for the Holiday Inn Express in Glenrothes for the past 15 years, Lynsey’s role since December has been to manage the day to day running and operations for the boutique Hotel Indigo in Edinburgh.
She lives and breaths her role and colleagues reckon her enthusiasm and passion has helped to make her job easier. Lynsey said, “The team at other hotels were like family, but I’m ready to get stuck into a new challenge. Hotel Indigo Edinburgh is undergoing some exciting new changes and I’m thrilled to be a part of them”