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NYC female execs ride growing hospitality industry trend

Old Blue Eyes said that if you can make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere. More women than ever seem to be making their way to the top of the hospitality industry in the city known for tall towers and tailored suits at the door.

NYC & Company Executive Vice President Kelly Curtin says the city’s $65 billion travel and tourism industry provides opportunities for women at all levels—including the highest leadership positions of hotels, attractions, dining, retail, culture, performing arts and special events. As examples, she points to Debora L. Spar, president of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Ellen Futter, president of American Museum of Natural History; and Emily Rafferty, chair of NYC & Company’s board and president emerita of Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“There are more opportunities today, and the heights women can achieve are even greater,” Curtin says. She attributes this, in part, to more jobs being available as the city grew from 47.1 million visitors in 2008 to 62.8 million in 2017. During the same period, the hotel industry has grown 52 percent, opening up opportunities for women along the way.

“When I started in the business 21 years ago, I knew of no female general managers of big-box hotels in New York City,” she says. Now, NYC & Company is aware of 73 general managers across quite a variety of hotels, from boutique to big-box, and from design-oriented and luxury to budget properties.

Curtin also attributes the success of women in the industry to the emergence of small businesses owned and operated by women. “I’m thrilled to see that as companies outsource services like meeting planning, public relations and digital marketing, it has provided the catalyst for evolution and growth, and has enabled women to play by their own rules,” she says.

Curtin was the first full-time NYC & Company employee to work from home one day a week. That was a decade ago. She is proud of the flexibility and support for family the local hospitality industry has extended to men and women. “It’s really important that management create an inclusive culture and support a healthy work-life balance for all employees,” she says. “Our industry doesn’t exist without women.”

NYC & Company President and CEO Fred Dixon describes Curtin as a role model for junior staff and industry colleagues in the city and across the country. “New York City has always championed empowered women—from artists to politicians, to urban activists, LGBTQ luminaries and more,” Dixon says. “I’m proud that our tourism industry continues to be light years ahead when it comes to leadership opportunities for women, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for the young leaders in our midst.”

VPs Speak Up

Four female NYC & Company vice presidents echoed the collaborative approach at the destination office. Sara Simkin, vice president of destination services; Trudy Singh, regional vice president of sales for the Mid-Atlantic; Lisa Lopez, regional vice president of sales for the Midwest; and Patricia Herrera, regional director for the Southeast and global MICE, confirm that as part of Senior Vice President of Convention Development Jerry Cito’s team, they are empowered to work together and try new things.

“I never feel like I’m going to fail, because my actions always derive from a sincere, unique perspective,” Herrera says.

“We work closely to ensure that all convention and trade show clients are well taken care of from start to finish,” Curtin adds. “Beyond tourism, I want the movement taking place culturally to extend to future generations and throughout all industries. As an executive of a well-respected organization—and as a woman who has always spoken up for equality and for progress—it is so important for me to be a role model for both my own daughter and the leaders of tomorrow.”