The winner of the ‘Walk the Talk’ prize at the 2018 Diversity Works Awards is walking into Friday 8 March – International Women’s Day – as an example of gender representation and diversity at all levels of its organisation. The national hotel group Sudima Hotels employs close to 350 people across three hotels in operation (Auckland Airport, Rotorua and Christchurch Airport) and has three more under construction in Kaikoura, Christchurch’s CBD and the Auckland CBD. Now the group has crunched the numbers in its business and made some valuable findings:
- Gender percentage across the organisation: 39% men / 61% women
- Gender percentage at management level: 50% men / 50% women
- Gender percentage at governance level :66% men / 33% women
Sudima Hotels mirrors the ever-growing diversity of New Zealand society right through the hotels and at all levels of the organisation. This is not the norm in New Zealand business, according to Grant Thornton International’s Women in Business report, which in 2018 found that women made up just 18% of company leadership teams, ranking New Zealand 33 out of 35 countries for the number of women in senior roles.
The group has recently appointed two female hotel managers, the first for the group was Maree Welgus, who will lead the new high-end Sudima Christchurch City, set to open in 2019. This was followed by the appointment of Ana Vivas who joined the group as hotel manager of Sudima Christchurch Airport in October 2018. The appointment of Maree and Ana means two of Sudima’s four current hotel managers are women.
CEO Sudesh Jhunjhnuwala says, “We have always found that if we recruit externally, most applicants for the hotel manager positions are men. To help address the gender imbalance at this level and create more opportunities in the sector for qualified women, we trained and mentored our best female executive assistant manager, Maree, and asked her to be patient while the right opportunity came up.
“In our experience, a lack of gender representation in any given position is not about a shortage of talent but comes back to the responsibility of leaders to create avenues for all people to develop professionally and advance in their careers.”
As Sudima Christchurch City’s hotel manager, Ms Welgus is responsible not only for the 86 fully accessible self-contained rooms, including six suites and two penthouses, but the whole hotel complex, with an on-site restaurant, day spa, and adjoining corporate offices.
Ms Welgus says she is thrilled to be in the driver’s seat of a new development: “This role will see me wearing several hats, and I couldn’t be happier. It will enable me to draw from my previous management experience across hotels and spas internationally, and allow me to flex my skills across corporate office management and oversee our on-site quality restaurant. It’s an exciting time for both myself and the Sudima Hotels brand.”
Phillipa Gimmillaro, the director of talent and culture at Sudima Hotels, says, “Sudima Hotels was founded on Sudesh’s belief in ethical hospitality. He believes you have to leave the world in a better position than you found it, and he does that as a hotel owner by working to protect the natural environment for future generations and, as an employment policy, embracing all people regardless of culture, colour, caste, creed, gender, sexual orientation, and age, mental or physical ability.
“We have countless examples of people within the business who fell ill, or were having difficulty finding work, or had family issues or faced extreme hardship, and the company has adapted to accommodate their strengths and talents rather than them having to bend to the world, as is usually the case in business. It should come as no surprise that Sudima Hotels has such a fair gender representation when our people are assessed on their abilities first. However, we know we are on a journey and there is still work to be done!”
The business is simultaneously investing in diversity initiatives by establishing a Diversity Team, known within the business as ‘CARE team’, and creating more opportunities for women to lead multiple portfolios. In addition to her responsibilities as a hotel manager, Ms Welgus is the Be. Accessible Ambassador, responsible for driving accessibility initiatives in all hotels. Vedika Jhunjhnuwala has been appointed the group’s environment and social advocate, building on the work of the Green Team, which leads environmental initiatives including year-on-year carbon emission reductions.
The programmes and initiatives being run in Sudima Hotels’ diversity and inclusion platform include:
- Establishment of a Diversity Team or CARE team with focus on diversity, inclusion, wellness and community engagement.
- National CARE team forum with workshops on wellbeing, disability inclusion and deeper understanding how to support an inclusive workplace including supporting women into leadership roles.
- Developed and delivered inclusive leadership training for all leaders and supervisors in the organisation.
- Trained all hiring managers on inclusive recruitment methods which remove bias and stereotypes.
- Foundation members of Accessibility Tick Programme with a solid commitment to improve all areas of workplace to be more inclusive and diverse.
- Active members of Accessibility Tick Employers Network, sharing success and encouraging other New Zealand businesses to start on their own accessible journey too.
- Appointment of CARE Ambassadors in each hotel including Christchurch City hotel manager Maree Welgus, who is passionate about making a difference.
- Welcome – we engage Be.Accessible, the social enterprise and social change movement to consult on accessibility on new hotel builds and renovations, operational accessibility, customer service training and more.
- Leadership – we are the Be.Leadership retreat venues of choice and we put our up and coming leaders through this programme.
- Employed – we offer internships and permanent employment opportunities for people with access needs.
- Staff Awards – an annual extravaganza over two days that celebrates our people’s achievements in a family atmosphere with healthy competition and the sharing of culture and friendship.
- We offer the Ngati Whakaue tertiary scholarship enabling marginalised young Maori of Ngati Whakaue descent to study for a tertiary degree, fully funded, mentored by a senior person at Sudima Hotels and offering a year’s employment to learn all aspects of hotel operations. Our first graduate, Awatere Douglas, has been appointed as our Cultural Ambassador and to a Duty Manager role at our new luxury Christchurch City hotel as part of the preopening team.
- Young Leaders – a team of up and coming young leaders from across the hotels who help drive improvements across the hotels. They are mentored and made privy to financials and quarterly management meetings.
- A partnership with Accor Hotels to engage long-term unemployed people (majority who are female) in paid work with guaranteed hours, classroom learning, opportunities for long-term employment and NZQA qualifications, gained on the job.
- Recently we made a large donation of corporate suits to Dress for Success (South Auckland), which helps women back in to the workforce with smart business attire for job interviews.