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Blog 13/03/2020

In Conversation: Celebrating Women of Today

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In honour of Women’s History Month we speak to six female trailblazers who are business pioneers across the luxury, travel and lifestyle industries and who serve as champions in their field. The third interview in our special series for our 10th anniversary.

Susanne Hatje, General Manager of Mandarin Oriental, New York

Susanne serves as the General Manager of the Five-Star Mandarin Oriental, New York, the Group’s flagship property in The Americas. Ms. Hatje has more than 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry and has held senior management positions with Mandarin Oriental for the past 20 years.

Prior to joining Mandarin Oriental, New York, Ms. Hatje served as Group Director of Residences, where she effectively managed all aspects of the Group’s global portfolio of Residences at Mandarin Oriental. 

On numerous occasions, Ms. Hatje has been recognized for her leadership accomplishments. In 2017, she was named Virtuoso’s “Hotelier of the Year” and in 2008, she was named one of Boston Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” for establishing herself as a leader in the hospitality industry. A German national, Ms. Hatje joined the hotel industry in 1988 as an apprentice at Atlantic Hotel Kempinski in Hamburg. While advancing her career, she continued her education through hospitality management programs at New York’s prestigious Cornell University and Australia’s Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) where she earned a Master’s of Business Administration degree. When she is not working, the action-loving general manager enjoys Pilates, surfing, sailing and tennis. 

1. If you could take a trip with one of your female icons, who would it be and where would you go?

I do love a good adventure and while I have not yet been on any type of safari, it is high on my bucket list. The opportunity to explore wildlife with an icon and intrepid adventurer Dr. Jane Woodall would be an amazing way to immerse myself in that experience and appreciate a species like the chimpanzee through her eyes.

2. You come from a long line of hoteliers, which first started with your grandmother. Was she or your family an inspiration in your career path?

Growing up, my parents owned and operated a hotel in Hamburg, Germany so this industry has been a part of my life from the beginning and I learned to be an effective hotelier from an early age. My upbringing in the hospitality industry and being a part of a family owned and operated business truly impacted my career. My grandparents worked with us at the hotel and, with my parents, they were excellent role models in how to be an authentically great host while still managing the operations. When I was a teenager, there was one day where my parents were off-property and I was working with just my grandmother. She worked alongside me to oversee that I did everything correctly while still attending to our guests, and that left an impact on me from a young age on how to effectively manage a hotel while still providing guests warm and hospitable service.

3. Can you share your three top things to do or places to see in NY in 2020?

Central Park is one of my top spots in NYC. Not only is it a nature haven for New Yorker’s and visitors in New York City, it’s the perfect destination for people of all ages, where you can discover the park’s hidden gems through its winding walkways, lakes, zoo, bird sanctuary, playgrounds, vast lawns to picnic or simply relax and the numerous events throughout the year. One of the most unique ways to explore the park is on horseback, with riding available year-around.

There are so many exciting things happening in New York City all the time but taking in a Broadway show is a must and it’s easier than people may think with venues like TKTS for day-of and discounted tickets to popular shows. New to the stage is the family musical Mrs. Doubtfire and the much-anticipated Moulin Rouge musical, based on the Baz Luhrmann film, while classics including Lion King and one of Broadway’s most sought after shows, Hamilton, do not disappoint.

The views of New York City are some of the most famous in the world. While many visitors go to the Empire State Building’s observation deck to take in the sights for the first time, from new Edge at Hudson Yards you will experience breathtaking and exhilarating 360-degree views of the city, including those of the Empire State Building. The Edge sits 1,100 feet above ground and is home to the highest outdoor observation deck in the western hemisphere, including a triangular glass floor at the center of the deck for the adrenaline seeker. 

Emma Turner, Director Philanthropy Service, Barclays Private Bank

Emma joined Barclays in 2008 to design, develop and run the Philanthropy Service.  The Service aims to engage, educate and support our clients, and their families, in their philanthropic journey.

Emma is President of a charitable foundation in the US and has been a Trustee of three UK charities.  She is very keen to ensure we all know how to be Smart Givers.  Emma started her career on Vogue Magazine in London and then moved to Paris to work for Women’s Wear Daily and W. 

  Returning to London she worked in advertising and then yacht racing before settling into a more purposeful career starting as a Fundraiser & Marketing Manager for a charity.  She then moved to Goldman Sachs where she ran the Charitable Services Group in EMEA for eleven years before joining Barclays.

1. If you could take a trip with one of your female icons, who would it be and where would you go?

Amelia Earhart as she embodies everything I admire – pioneer; brave and fearless; record breaker; pioneer; philanthropic; down to earth but also glamorous.  I would love to fly as her co-pilot anywhere she chooses but over land not sea!

2. Each year we see more success for women as entrepreneurs and in business, is this growth impacting and influencing the world of philanthropy? Do women have different attitudes to giving?

I am asked this a lot and my answer is no, not really.  Giving is going down not up.  People who want to give are driven more by their social conscience and heart than by their business skills.  

However philanthropy is taking a turn towards smarter giving which means donors are using more strategic approaches when assessing charities, in the same way that they would assess business investments. A recent report commissioned by Barclays Private Bank delves into these barriers to giving that face philanthropists and charities today, and offers practical advice as to how to overcome them.

3. Who or what inspires you?

Authenticity; humour; candor; inner strength and a sense of self (a dash of style helps too).   My late stepmother Geraldine Stutz who was pioneer in the fashion industry and one of the first female Presidents of a company.  She commissioned Andy Warhol to do the shoe drawings for her shoe store and then went on to turn around Henri Bendel in New York from a small retail outfit into a leading fashion store.  She was a huge believer in bringing on young talent.  She died 15 years ago and I think of her every day. 

Tessa Gorman, General Manager, Bvlgari Resort Bali

Tessa embarked on her career in hospitality in the Ski Travel Industry in Europe in 2004 where she covered a series of management positions over a period of five years.  In 2006, Tessa joined Aman Resorts at their flagship property Amanpuri Resort in Phuket until 2012 as Senior Assistant Manager.

In 2013, Tessa founded Luxe Villas as Managing Director and launched a unique luxury villa management company which was successfully established as a high end villa rental business in Asia.  

Simultaneously, Tessa independently consulted for numerous Luxury hospitality brands including Aman Resorts, Cheval Blanc, Bvlgari and Ritz-Carlton and directed the properties through pre-opening stages and beyond.   In 2016 Tessa was appointed as General Manager of the world’s first Ritz-Carlton Reserve where she led the hotel through two and a half record breaking years.  In 2018 Tessa moved to Bali as the first female General Manager for Bvlgari Hotels and Resorts.  

1. If you could take a trip with one of your female icons, who would it be and where would you go?

I would take a trip back in time and meet Cleopatra for a tour of Egypt, the Pyramids, a boat trip down the Nile, stay at her palace and maybe a trip to Greece. Of course, there’s also a nod to the late, great Elizabeth Taylor who famously said “The only word I know in Italian is Bvlgari”.

 2. Being a female GM is relatively rare, was your path to being one – a fortuitous accident or a passionate ambition?

Most certainly a fortuitous accident which developed into a passionate ambition.  I always say my journey was a very unorthodox one.  An unusual and encouraging aspect of the hotel industry is the very transparent career path.  

The majority of General Managers attend hotel school and grow through the industry, starting as a waiter or receptionist, and then promoted and developed within the hotels.  I had a baptism of fire at one of the most renowned hotels in the world where a chance encounter led to my appointment as General Manager at my first property many years later.

 3. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

My sister in law told me to always “Eat the green frog first”.  The full quote is from Mark Twain, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.  And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”  Procrastination is something I am wary of and the frog represents the task on the “to do list” which motivates me the least.  I have a print of a big green frog on my office wall as a reminder to tackle the thing I want to do least of all, first. 

Sarah Chapman, Founder, CEO and product formulator of the award-winning Skinesis skincare range

Ever the innovator and with over 20 years of expert experience and advanced training in cosmetic science, Sarah Chapman has become London’s most sought-after facialist, and an expert on luxury, results-driven skincare. Her cosmeceutical, award-winning skincare brand, Skinesis which launched in 2008, delivers cutting-edge formulas which blend nature, science and luxury, and promise transformative results, high-performance and the legendary Skinesis glow whilst at home. With a range that is constantly evolving, Sarah continuously develops her products based on the best research and developments in dermatology, to deliver radiant, healthy skin for everyone.

The winner of many industry accolades, Skinesis was awarded Best New Prestige Skincare Brand at the Cosmetic Executive Woman Awards and appears in the Anti-Ageing Beauty Bible which is followed amongst beauty business insiders and real women alike. Sarah has also been awarded the Best Anti-Ageing Facialist by Harper’s Bazaar in 2015 and Cosmetic Design’s Beauty Industry Women of the Year: Europe in 2017. 

1. If you could take a trip with one of your female icons, who would it be and where would you go?

I would say Coco Chanel. I’ve long admired her for her success as a brand founder and businesswoman, but also for her incredible style and bravery to do things differently. She redefined how to dress women and it’s admirable how her legacy lives on today and the Chanel brand transcends generations. I’m fortunate to be a Chanel Ambassador myself and to own some much-loved pieces that always make my outfits feel extra special. I would have loved to join her on one of her trips to her Holiday Estate on the French Riviera. I’d obviously have to take my partner and dog with me along with some stylish Chanel treasures!

2. Not only are you one of the most sought after facialists in the world, you are also the formulator of an award-winning skincare range and founder of a highly successful business. Who or what inspired you on this path?

My clients inspired me to create my skincare range and I was lucky enough to have two great mentors who had spent their long careers in beauty and gave me great insight and encouragement. The best piece of advice I could give anyone is to stay true to your vision and don’t let people tell you things are not possible. My parents always told me ‘you can be anything you want to be’ – I truly believe this and it’s something I also instill in my team. It took me four years of development before I launched my first formulas and I had a lot of people tell me that what I was asking for wasn’t possible, but that drove me to want to learn more and studying cosmetic science enabled me to push the boundaries of cosmeceutical skincare – combining active technologies for results with elegant textures and scents.

So, have a clear vision, stick with it and know that you will receive many knock-backs and setbacks along the way.

3. You are a Founding Patron for Women Supporting Women, why is this so important you?

I was fortunate to be bought up in a loving family, receive a great education and encouragement to follow my dreams; not everyone has that opportunity. Women Supporting Women is an initiative powered by The Prince’s Trust. We’re dedicated to helping nurture, empower and inspire thousands of vulnerable young women on their journey to building a better future. I’ve been privileged to have had the chance to meet many of the girls undertaking the programmes which The Prince’s Trust runs, and to see just how much their lives have been changed. Some girls come into the programmes from very challenged, broken backgrounds – with no education or direction. These programmes teach them, empower them and give them confidence on their journey. Some programmes involve Business Management and I’ve seen first-hand how some girls have gone on to set up their own businesses and some now work in the beauty industry… which obviously I’m very pleased to see! I’m proud to see these incredible changes in their lives. As part of my support, I’ve just launched a new limited-edition product – Glow – an illuminating elixir where £10 from every sale goes toward The Prince’s Trust Women Supporting Women initiative. If you use it as part of your morning skincare regime, the blend of botanical oils can help give you that extra lift and confidence boost if you have a challenging day ahead. We are really on a mission to continue making a difference to thousands of young girls in the UK.  

Pippa Williamson, Senior Vice President, Sales MEIA & Source Market Strategy, Shangri-La Group

Pippa relocated to Dubai earlier this year following 12 years in Hong Kong where she held various leadership roles. Her most recent position with Shangri-La Group in Hong Kong was Senior Vice President, Sales for International markets in addition to leading the Group’s global distribution and luxury strategies.

Pippa leads vast multicultural teams in global locations and is therefore astutely aware of the challenges of women culturally and in the workforce across the world. Throughout her career, Pippa has mentored men and women both personally and professionally including mentees at the Asian University for Woman in Bangladesh. 

1. If you could take a trip with one of your female icons, who would it be and where would you go?

I have always found Isabella Bird fascinating. She was an English traveler who made a remarkable series of journeys at the end of the 19th century.

She lead an extraordinary life with an intense curiosity and interest in not just seeing the world but experiencing it and giving back to those most in need. Just 8 days before her seventy-third birthday. She was still planning another trip to China, I would love to take a trip to China with her.

She was way ahead of her time, I admire how she bucked the social constraints of Victorian times and how she was basically able to do and say mostly as she pleased. I would listen intently as she recalled people, sites and experiences in great detail and with a certain spark, or even a risqué sense of humour that would make her stories even more enchanting.

Isabella is often portrayed as a strong and independent woman who’s thirst for knowledge and adventure was not inhibited by a need for companionship. I am intrigued to know more about her softer side and her determination to provide better lives and care for the people she encountered. I would talk to her about her work to set up hospitals and orphanages in what was then some of the most remote places in the world and how she would feel about her hospital in Kashmir still treating people more than 100 years after it was first opened by her in her husband’s honor. Come to think of it I do think this trip will have to be a least a few weeks there is so much I would like to know and understand better…

"There never was anybody", wrote the Spectator, "who had adventures as well as Miss Bird." 

 2. Do you feel travel can be more of a ‘force for good’ and make both a social and environmental difference this decade?

I feel to make a difference people need to be more aware of the impact their actions have socially or environmentally. This means being respectful of the culture, environment, and community of the destination they’re visiting.

They say travel is the best teacher, you get to meet people and touch cultures very different from your own and through that you get to actually discover how alike we are.

We are lucky today that we have a wealth of information at our fingertips and therefore learning through reading or watching has never been more accessible, however, I am a strong believer that people are more compelled to act if they have personally experienced something that moves them. Growing up in Australia enjoying pristine beaches regardless of what I read I didn’t fully comprehend what was happening to our oceans until I travelled and saw this myself.

3. What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

Women’s History Month resonates with me in two ways. Firstly, I am grateful to be a woman living a better life because incredibly courageous women before me took action to speak and act for equality and many in doing so risked their own lives for the betterment of all women.

Secondly, I feel even more determined to ensure my children and grandchildren will be learning about how today’s women continued the fight to bring down the barriers that prevent women from being safe and fairly treated in all societies.

Supporting and encouraging all women to make even the smallest change everyday counts. 

Anne Mansfield, Vice President, Sales – Americas, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

As Vice President, Sales- Americas, Anne leads the Worldwide Sales teams in North and South America to drive business growth across the Four Seasons portfolio of 117 hotels and resorts. In her role, she is responsible for strategic account management and new business development for all market segments. 

Anne has always been deeply invested in developing and coaching high-performing sales teams, with a long track record of success throughout her 30 years with Four Seasons.

She attributes this success to long-lasting relationships with clients, partners and colleagues who share a common passion for luxury travel and commitment to excellence. When she is not on the road, Anne resides in New York City and enjoys the restaurant and performing arts scene with her husband and twin sons. 

1. If you could take a trip with one of your female icons, who would it be and where would you go?

Katherine Johnson. I’d take a road trip with her through West Virginia and the Appalachian region of the Southern United States during the fall season.

Context: When I saw the film Hidden Figures, I was fascinated at the idea of women, particularly women of color, working with NASA to solve for how to get humans safely back to earth following their missions. My father was a nuclear physicist who did some work with NASA before he passed away and the story resonated deeply with me. Johnson’s calculations of orbital mechanics allowed our country to have successful spaceflight. Prior to her contributions, the team at NASA could not solve for this. She became the first African- American woman to work at NASA. It’s an extraordinary story of intelligence, perseverance and tolerance during a time in our country where we did not celebrate women as equals, and certainly not women of colour. Johnson recently died in February at 102 years of age! (In 2015, Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom).

2. Four Seasons has a strong ‘Local Effort, Global Commitment’ ethos around sustainability and the community, do you have a favourite initiative?

I am extremely proud of the work our hotels and resorts do in the areas of sustainability and building community. Countless examples exist of innovative and impactful initiatives around the world, but one that very much resonates with me is Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.

Their sustainability efforts, led by their Director of Natural Resources, David Chai, are focused primarily around ocean health. 

The resort is built on an ancient Hawaiian fishing village and hosts a series of fishing ponds. David and his team restored and now maintain the natural balance of these ponds, allowing marine life, birds, and plants to create a healthy and self-sustaining ecosystem. Restoring these ponds enabled the resort to start growing and harvesting its own oysters on-site, the only resort in Hawaii to do so! Guests are invited to learn about the oysters and ponds, and of course to taste the delicious product. David was also instrumental in the implementation of a ten year fishing ban on the waters off the coast of Hualalai, allowing these over-fished waters to rejuvenate and repopulate. He and his Natural Resources team, which includes 9 marine biologists, have crafted a number of incredible marine life activities allowing them to share their knowledge about Hawaiian marine life with guests. I highly recommend these experiences and so would my family!

3. Who or what inspires you?

An incredibly strong woman who lost her husband to a car accident on his way to work in 1972. She had three children, had just moved to a new town with no family and made the decision to stay and raise her family independently. She eventually joined the work force at age 52, never chose to remarry, but rather formed strong female friendships through her investment clubs, social groups and travel. She instilled in her daughter the firm belief that she could do anything she put her mind to and stressed the importance of being able to laugh at oneself. The world is serious enough, she would say. She is my extraordinary mother who is now 92 years old.

What inspires me is resilience--that ability to recover quickly from difficulty, which seems apropos right now in our industry/world.