During more than 25 years in the hotel industry as either a general manager or president of a company, Anne Larcade often found herself surrounded by men while over 80 per cent of frontline hospitality positions were held by women.
“Hollywood has taken a stand, magazines have taken a stand, politics have taken a stand, it is time for women in hospitality and tourism to take a stand,” said Larcade.
This reality was what compelled Larcade to look further into increasing the level of senior positions for women, create pay equity for women, and to create a culture of zero tolerance for harassment in the hospitality and tourism industry.
“Even women of power have fear, so think about a housekeeper who is being sexually harassed by her manager. Almost every woman has a ‘Me Too’ story and they all need a voice,” said Larcade.
She believes that there are three steps to achieving gender equality in the industry.
“The first step is to make people aware of the bias,” she said. “The second is to give women the skills and safe space to raise their voices. The third is for society to realize that civil rights are everyone’s issue, not just a ‘woman’s issue.'”
To get the ball rolling on the initiative, Larcade met with Katie Taylor, former president and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels, and the current and first female chair of Royal Bank of Canada.
She discussed the opportunity to help both companies and women and asked if Taylor would serve as the first year honorary chair of a new organization, which she happily agreed to.
“I felt that it this point in my career I wanted to help women in tourism and hospitality to join hands globally and help businesses embrace diversity,” said Larcade.
That was when WITHorg (Women in Tourism and Hospitality) was born.
“The first thing we did was create a website because it is the platform for companies and individuals to contact us and join the movement,” said Larcade.
After the website was created and people started to join, WITH then hosted its inaugural summit in September 2017. A second summit will be held June 24 to 25 at the Four Seasons in Toronto.
“WITH is comprised of companies and individuals who believe in gender equality and we want to help businesses look at bias and implement practical solutions,” said Larcade.
Larcade notes that in many instances both companies and individuals think that only women are invited to attend, however, she strongly encourages men to join the WITH movement. Not only are men speaking at the conference, but there are many men in attendance from across the globe.
“We need men to help join the fight for gender equality. Now more than ever they are the ones who need to attend our summits in order to learn and educate the other staff at their company,” said Larcade.
At this year’s summit, many well known speakers and influential individuals will be in attendance including President and CEO of Marriott Hotels of Canada, Don Cleary; CEO of Global Situation Room, Johanna Maska; and one of the top Canadian criminal lawyers (she also defended Jian Gomeshi), Marie Henein.
On its first night, the conference welcomes speakers and VIPs while attendees get to network, followed by Katie Taylor’s welcoming address.
“The WITH Summit has everything from health and wellness workshops to competitive strategies to building up women together,” said Larcade.
One of Larcade’s top goals is for resorts in Muskoka to have zero tolerance policies and diversity policies.
Huntsville’s number one industry is tourism so I want to do my part by creating change here in Muskoka. We want to grow the organization while creating jobs here where I created WITH.
WITHorg founder Anne Larcade
Larcade encourages both individuals and businesses from around Muskoka to attend the summit and join the fight for gender equality in hospitality and tourism.
Using part of the ticket sales, WITH picks 10 deserving women or men whose company cannot afford to attend the summit.
WITH has also chosen three charities to donate part of the summit’s profits to—Special Needs Dreamworks, The Alexandré Foundation, which is named after Larcade’s son Alex; The Tory Day Fund; and Worlds Collide Africa.
For more information or to purchase a ticket to the WITH summit, which includes a one-year membership, visit withorg.com. You can also follow the organization @WITHorg on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
“When women stood together in #TimesUp they felt powerful,” said Larcade. “We want to give women the power to hold hands and stand up together.”
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