At CLHG, we firmly believe that inclusivity and diversity is the key to long-term success. In a month like August, when all eyes are focused on furthering the rights of women and levelling the playing fields, this is a pertinent time for us to celebrate the progress we’ve made as a hotel group and hear from some of the ladies at the top on what leadership means – the ladies that make us go Whoa! 

We’re Committed to Women in Leadership 

We are pleased to see increased interest from women in pursuing careers in hospitality. This is particularly noticeable in the high calibre of female students applying with us and 75% of our 2020 Work Integrated Students being women as well. 

We are a proud member of the 30% Club – a global campaign led by CEOs to increase gender diversity at board and senior management levels. The aim is to have at least 30% of a company’s key decision-makers be women, but we thought why stop there? 

Across our South African operations: 

  • 50% of our exco / top management are female 
  • 36% of our senior management are female 
  • 62% of our middle management are female 
  • 64% of our junior management are female 
  • 62% of our employees overall are female 

While these figures only represent our South African teams, similar statistics can be found in the other territories we operate in as well, such as Kenya, Namibia, and Tanzania. 

A Chance to Reflect with Some Leading Ladies 

We got in touch with five of our women senior managers to see if they had any insights to share. It’s important to learn from each other, particularly in harsh business climates like those we find ourselves in during COVID. 

To give you a brief introduction to the ladies, we spoke with: 

What Does It Take to Be Successful in the Hotel Industry? 

Of course, everyone has a unique journey to success and each of our managers mentioned different aspects that they think are important to “making it” in the hotel industry. For Sinazo, she pointed out the eagerness to learn and adapt to new trends as being important. Often when we get a taste of success, we sit back, feeling as though we’ve “made it” and don’t put any further effort in. But Sinazo reminded us that when we show creativity in problem-solving and think about things differently, we will constantly be involving and feel rewarded each day. Andrea also pointed out something so simple, yet so important – being successful in the hotel industry means having a passion for it. Managing people and keeping guests happy is an often-thankless job that can truly test your desire to stick with it. But keep a positive attitude and work through each issue as it arises – it all tends to work out in the end! 

How Has the Hotel Industry Changed? 

We had a full house of responses speaking to how technology has shaped our industry, from the appliances you’ll find in our rooms, the ways you can book with us – even just our key cards are space-age compared to when we first started. Roslyn touched on an interesting point – each new generation of employees that join our ranks think about the world differently. It’s important to harness the energy and drive of young employees and give them a sense of purpose before they consider finding it somewhere else. Nathi pointed out the fact that how we present ourselves has also shifted – you’re probably reading this post because you saw it on our website or through social media!  

What is the Most Challenging Part of Your Job? 

Despite the smiling faces, hospitality can be a difficult calling. Sinazo reminded us that, as a black female general manager, she needed to overcome stereotypes that people imposed on her. Making it to a leadership position was one thing, but commanding respect and being heard wasn’t automatic. She did, however, mention that this challenge is much easier to face in 2021 than when she first took on her management role in 2013. Roslyn spoke to specific challenges that she and her teams have faced during COVID. With all the protocols we put in place, it was difficult to turn staff away who failed screening tests or were isolating – but all of these were necessary precautions to keep our hotel spaces safe. We look forward to the day when these protocols are no longer necessary but, until then, we maintain strict adherence to them for everyone’s safety. 

Who Are Your Mentors? 

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Climbing the ranks is made easier when you have someone with experience guiding your steps. Our general managers pointed to inspiring women in the CLHG family, like our chief operating officer, Lindiwe Sangweni-Siddo, and divisional director of sales and marketing, Zuki Jantjies. Liz also touched on an important point, she developed a very good relationship with her first general manager, Marianne Kellerman, when she joined us. Liz points to her as the one who lifted her up, believed in her and gave her the opportunity to grow in the industry. It’s so important to recognize these opportunities – both when we’re on the receiving end and the giving. As we climb the rungs up the ladder of our career, we should also be as ready to lend a hand to those below as we are to accept a hand reaching to help us. 

What Has Working During the COVID-19 Pandemic Taught You? 

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As with all of their responses, our ladies had some real words of wisdom to share. COVID has had a tremendous impact on the travel and tourism industry as a whole. Yet, as South Africans tend to do, we pulled together, we stood strong, and we have endured. You may be aware, but we continue our work to get our hotels open again so that you have a convenient, safe place to stay when you’re travelling for work or pleasure. For Andrea, this resilience in the face of hardship was noteworthy, with her team’s ability to adapt quickly to an ever-changing situation being the key. She also found this to be a time of self-learning, finding an inner strength that was rewarding as she marched forward. Roslyn also shared some useful thoughts on seizing the opportunities of today. Often, we get caught up in the failings of yesterday but, for Roslyn, a new day meant a new chance to grow. 

How Do You Lead Your Teams Through Major Challenges? 

It’s easy to lead when the sun is shining, but recent times have proved to be a difficult course for our teams to navigate. This question unearthed some inspiring leadership techniques that our female managers have – a true testament to the wealth of solid leadership that we’re honoured to have amongst our ranks. A common thread that all five of our managers spoke to was being able to listen – a leader that takes on feedback from their team is one that keeps their employees engaged. Nathi, Andrea, and Liz both mentioned leading by example – taking on a double shift to cover for someone in extenuating circumstances or being on the floor alongside your team in difficult times. This allows your team members to be human, while still giving them opportunities to learn and grow. 

We were grateful for the opportunity to discuss leadership with these five amazing women and hope that you gained something by hearing their stories.  


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