In honor of Women’s Day, we have asked women at Comfort Hotel to share their personal stories about leadership, gender equality and female empowerment.
Natalia Papaioannou, Shift Leader Barception, Comfort Hotel® Kista
Hi Natalia, could you please tell us about yourself? My name is Natalia, I am from Greece and I moved to Sweden two years ago. It was a dream come true! I had visited Stockholm years ago, fell in love with the city and thought 'I will move here one day'. Two years ago I said to myself 'it is now or never' and here I am! I have a degree in logopaedics, but worked in the hotel industry while studying and I instantly loved it.
How did you get into hotels? My sister studied hotel management and has been working in the tourism sector for many years. I had visited her numerous times and had the opportunity to see her work and learn about the business. The first sparkle appeared back then I think. After a while, when I was looking for a job whilst I was studying, my sister suggested I should apply for a position at a hotel. And so my journey began!
What do you think are the biggest challenges when it comes to equality? Unfortunately, even in our modern times there are still multiple incidents where women are treated as "less worthy" than men. That are refused access to basic or higher education, political representation, equal pay. That they are being denied their rights in healthcare, safety and body decision making. Women still have to overcome plenty of hurdles, fight everyday fights- from small to bigger ones- as equality is not a given.
Do you have any tips of how we all could think and act in our everyday life to become more gender equal? Everyday we learn something different, something new from the people that surround us. Everyday we can affect and influence each other in a positive way, not to distinguish and discriminate against someone because of their gender. We must not forget the bigger picture, that we are all human beings.
We think, we act, and we feel the same way...all of us. So every time we witness discrimination against someone, we should talk, and we should act showing what equality and respect towards someone means. Furthermore we should promote awareness through education and empower communities.
Have you experienced any positive or negative experiences in your role because you are a woman? Many years ago, while in one of my previous jobs, I did experience the feeling of not being as adequate and as competent as a man. I was told in many ways that since I am a woman I would not be able to handle all the situations that could come abroad and that was a "man's job".
But thankfully not anymore! On the contrary, I would say I feel very confident, I am always empowered, guided and trusted to do new things and take up new responsibilities. My efforts and my work are recognized and my gender is not considered as an obstacle.
What has been the most fun and what are you most proud of so far in your career? What could be more fun than meeting new people every day from all over the world and being one of the reasons that they enjoyed their stay? Than making people's day with just a smiling "good morning" or by asking them "how was your day?". Than making people feel more like at "home" when being away from home.
Being able to help someone, whether a guest or a colleague, knowing that I am one of the reasons that someone is feeling even a little bit better, is one of the things that I am most proud of.
Anything you would have done differently? I am sure there are plenty of things I should have done differently. But I don't think I would have. My choices and the paths I have chosen have brought me to where I am today, I could not be happier. On second thought, maybe I should have moved to Stockholm sooner!
Do you and your friends encourage each other to claim the space you are entitled to and take no bullshit? If so, in what way do you encourage each other? Of course we encourage each other to claim the space we are entitled to and to take no bullshit. We always stand by each other, we always support and commend each other. And sometimes we are 'just there' to listen and advise. We work hard and nobody can tell us otherwise. Even if anyone tries, we have proof and facts and we can prove them wrong. Our work "speaks" on each own.
What is the most rewarding thing about your job? Being trusted by both the guests and especially my colleagues is the most rewarding thing. I am surrounded by an AMAZING team that makes me feel confident and that I can conquer the world!!! So, what is better than this? I feel extremely lucky!
At Comfort Hotel we are already very good when it comes to equality. For ex. 48% of all General Managers are women. What do you think other companies and industries could learn from us? What Comfort Hotel proves and other industries could learn is that gender does not define a leader and that leadership is not a 'male privilege'. High-ranking jobs are not a "man's job" as there are numerous women out there equally, or even more skilled than men, who can and do excel in the same roles.
Gender is not an asset nor an obstacle. And when people do discriminate against women because of our gender, they only make us more stubborn. More stubborn to succeed and prove them wrong.
Raisa Gamusa Palomaria, Rooms Crew, Comfort Hotel Xpress Tromsø
Could you please tell us about yourself? My name is Raisa Gamusa Palomaria and I am 32 years old. I’ve lived in Norway for 8 years now and have been married for 7. I love my life in Norway and working at Comfort Hotel Xpress Tromsø, where I’ve been for 5 years now since the opening!
Raisa Gamusa Palomaria
How did you get into hotels? When I came to Norway I wanted to work, and I ended up in hotels because it gave me the chance to both meet many other Philipinos, which has made it easier being so far away from home – and people from other countries. It’s been fun getting to know new cultures as well.
This is my 3rd hotel. I’ve worked In Clarion Bryggen, and I worked at Radisson for a few months.
What do you think are the biggest challenges when it comes to equality? It’s already much better here than in my home-country, and I think we can all agree on that. I see very few challenges with equality – but I think we have to keep working to keep the conversation alive, so we don’t end up back where we started.
Do you have any tips of how we all could think and act in our everyday life to become more gender equal? I don’t see the difference between genders. We are unique, and our gender is not what defines us. Stay positive! Treat others how you want to be treated back.
Have you experienced any positive or negative experiences in your role because you are a woman? I have not experienced any situations at work based on my gender. But outside of work I have been faced with stereotypes since I am Asian, and also for being married to a Norwegian man.
What has been the most fun and what are you most proud of so far in your career? I think what I find most fun is the work environment and working here at Xpress Tromsø with my colleagues. I love it – and I spend so much time at work it’s nice to feel like I’m home!
Being awarded Employee of the Year at my hotel has been one of my proudest moments!
Anything you would have done differently? If I were to start again I would dare to believe in myself and my abilities more, and aim higher.
Do you and your friends encourage each other to claim the space you are entitled to and take no bullshit? If so, in what way do you encourage each other? YES! We always encourage each other. We encourage each other to go to school, to talk more Norwegian, we talk about the future and how we can get to our goals together, and how we can climb higher at our workplaces.
What is the most rewarding thing about your job? The work environment is the most rewarding part, and the freedom it gives. I feel like we’re home at work.
At Comfort Hotel we are already very good when it comes to equality. For ex. 48% of all General Managers are women. What do you think other companies and industries could learn from us? They have to think of all as equals. It’s a thing about mentality – if you already see everyone as equal and encourage each to achieve your goals – you don’t need to make a change.
Michaela Pricop, Housekeeping Manager, Comfort Hotel® Göteborg
Hi Mihaela, could you please tell us about yourself? I am Mihaela Pricop and I am 42 years old. I am married and I have an amazing son. I moved to Sweden from Romania in 2006. I am passionate about my work and the fact that I am able to influence and help so many around me. I enjoy relaxing with a good book and meeting my friends over dinner.
A couple of weeks ago you were awarded Department Manager of the Year at Comfort Hotel. How does it feel? I feel ecstatic! It was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. I am so thankful to everyone for supporting me.
How did you get into hotels? I started working in housekeeping around 10 years ago and then shortly after I became an assistant manager and finally 2 years ago I got a position as Housekeeping Manager.
What has been the biggest challenge to become a leader? First it was the language barrier since I was not speaking so well swedish and then it was the fact that I had a fear of failure since I was new as a manager.
Have you experienced any positive or negative experiences in your role because you are a woman? I don't have any bad experiences but I think it is a plus that in housekeeping most of the employees are women.
What has been the most fun and what are you most proud of so far in your career? I am the most proud of the relationship I have built with my co-workers since they loved me and appreciated me enough to choose me as department manager two years in a row and before that employee of the year.
Anything you would have done differently? I wouldn't have done it differently. I am a person of little regrets about my career.
Do you encourage your female team members to strive to become managers? If so, in what way do you encourage them? Yes, I encourage every woman with potential to strive and always aim higher. I urge them to learn swedish (those who can very little) and attend courses and become more engaged in work related stuff but most importantly I motivate them to believe in themselves.
What is the most rewarding thing about your job? Most rewarding about my job is when I get feedback about my work and I see that all of my efforts and of those that supported me have paid off. I think it is great that my job also allows me to go to VK every year and experience a lot of amazing things there.
At Comfort Hotel we are already very good when it comes to equality. For ex. 48% of all General Managers are women. What do you think other companies and industries could learn from us? Gender equality is very important to me and the fact that my workplace doesn't have issues related to that is a big plus. We as people continue to develop ourselves and become better and discrimination because of gender should not exist in our society.
What’s your three best leadership tips? First I think is building a trustworthy relationship with your team. Second, in order to make a guest happy you have to make the employee love their job. Third is always trying to get better and do better at your job, set goals for yourself and your coworkers.
Benedicte Louise Kværner, Barception Manager, Comfort Hotel® Karl Johan
Could you please tell us about yourself? My name is Benedicte, I am 31 years old and live a little bit outside of Oslo together with my fiance and son. I just came back to work as the Barception Manager at Comfort Hotel Karl Johan after my maternity leave. I’m very passionate about traveling, food and wine, and I’m currently remodeling a small farm, so I have more than enough to do!
Benedicte Louise Kværner
How did you get into hotels? I moved to Oslo to study, and my aunt was working for Strawberry. She believed that Strawberry and especially Comfort Hotel would be a perfect fit for me. I started working in the reception at Comfort Hotel Grand Central and extra at the other Comfort Hotels in the Oslo area, and after I finished my bachelors degree I was offered the job as Service Manager at Comfort Hotel Grand Central.
3 years ago I became a Barception Manager at Xpress Central Station, and now I’m at Comfort Hotel Karl Johan. So it was just a coincidence that I ended up in the hotel industry, but I loved it from day one!
What has been the most fun so far and what are you most proud about in your professional life? All the people that you get to meet, both guests and colleagues! A highlight was winning Comfort Hotel of the Year, and being nominated for Department Manager of the Year. I also got a score of 100% in The Beat, our internal employee survey. All of these are confirmation that you have done a good job, and I’m very proud of it.
What is the most rewarding thing about your job? I love working with people, both guests and employees. I’m very curious as a person. I love the fact that no days are the same in the hotel industry, and working here gives me a lot of positive energy.And of course it’s rewarding to reach goals!
What do you think is key to becoming a good leader? Put in the time and effort to get to know your employees and colleagues. Ask them about who they are as a person and what they like to do. I work hard to make sure I’m being a good leader, that my employees feel seen and are looking forward to going to work.
What do you think is important to focus on today, in order to encourage more female professionals to become managers? First of all, you need to have confidence and believe in yourself. It’s also important to have good leaders who encourage talent and lift you up. I think there are a lot of people who would be great leaders but don’t have the courage to apply for the job, and it’s important that we see them and help them.
I think we’re doing a great job in Strawberry right now with recruiting and developing internally instead of only hiring experienced leaders from other industries.
What’s your three best tips to encourage female leadership?
- Believe in yourself
- Have the courage to go out of your comfort zone
- Build a great network
Karina Living, General Manager, Comfort Hotel® Copenhagen Airport
How did you get into the hotel industry? It was actually a bit of a coincidence. After spending a few years abroad, I became interested in the shipping industry. But then I accidentally saw a job post about a receptionist trainee position and thought it was worth a try. I soon discovered I was in my element and that I have a passion for creating good experiences with people.
What are the main things about the hotel industry that speaks to you? I love the pace and energy, the possibility to get involved in different areas of management and operations, working with people and that every day is never the same. And in hospitality we just have more fun.
Can you describe your path to becoming a manager, and do you have any advice? I think that the journey is very different for everyone. The best advice I can give is a quote I was inspired by at a conference: “If you can align your personality with your purpose you will succeed” My advice is also to be curious, to be flexible, to engage, to take ownership, to be positive and never stop learning both personally and professionally.
In order to maintain a passion for what you do, I think it is important that you are willing to learn new things and that you are able to think outside the box. And the ability to think outside the box comes from our own knowledge and from being inspired by other people and adding experience, and education along the way, to widen your perspective.
The first general manager I worked for said to me: “Karina, you are the kind of person that doesn’t just let the wind blow, you use it to create energy. Other people just stand by and let it blow.” I will never forget that. So my advice to female managers is to not let things pass you by. Make sure that you take ownership, be curious and don’t just let the wind blow, use it to create energy.
Be personal, authentic and fair. Management is about two-way communication. Never micro-manage. Put people and purpose first and celebrate mistakes.
Can you describe your personal management philosophy? One of my main focus areas as a manager is to create the right cultural setting for employees as well as guests. It is very clear to me that we have to have a good culture in order to deliver good results.
My personal philosophy is to always make a difference, professionally and personally.
Have you noticed a difference between male and female managers? In general I think that the difference between men and women in leading positions is that men are much better in believing that they are world champions. I think it is in women’s nature to strive for perfection before we proceed, we want to be 150% prepared. Especially if we are outnumbered by men. Men are often more confident from the start. My advice is to be more bold, and not to be so scared of making mistakes. It is in the diversity between men and women that the real strength lies.
48 % of general managers are female at Comfort Hotel, what are your thoughts? I really think we should be very proud of Comfort Hotel. I also think we will see more and more women moving into leading positions in general because the maternity leave is more split between father and mother today. Maternity leave is normally a life event that can create a setback in a woman’s career.