Five women leading the way in the hotel industry

Looking to move into or progress your career in the hotel industry? Here are five women leading the way in the sector.

Last year, the Penn State School of Hospitality Management released its 2023 Women in Hospitality research report, assessing women’s representation in leadership within the hotel industry. Findings indicate that women’s advancement to executive roles in 2022 was steady but slow.

A team of doctoral students, supervised by assistant professor Phil Jolly, analyzed publicly available data from over 6,000 individuals across 701 companies and more than 7,000 hotel investment conference attendees.

Key findings include:

  • Representation of women at the top levels of hospitality leadership continues to increase, with modest gains at the CEO and president levels.
  • Women now hold one in four chief-level positions at hotel companies, primarily in human resources and sales/marketing roles.
  • At the director level, women and men now occupy equal positions.
  • Women held 24% of podium spots at hotel investment conferences, up from 16% in 2017. On the main stage, 37% of prime speaking spots in 2022 went to women, up from 22% in 2021.

“This report indicates that gender diversity is increasing at lower levels of hotel leadership, creating a pipeline of leaders who are likely to continue diversifying the upper ranks of leadership in the industry in years to come,” said Jolly.

With this research in mind and to celebrate women in hotel leadership roles, we have compiled a list of five influential women who are making significant impacts in the hotel industry in 2024:

1) Monica Melancon – Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

As the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Monica Melancon plays a crucial role in shaping the company’s culture and employee experience. Her strategic talent acquisition, development, and retention initiatives have driven Wyndham’s success. Monica’s leadership emphasizes diversity and inclusion, fostering an environment where employees can thrive and contribute to the company’s goals​.

2) Rachel Moniz – Chief Operating Officer, HEI Hotels & Resorts

Rachel Moniz is the Chief Operating Officer of HEI Hotels & Resorts. She first joined the company in 2014 as its corporate director. Founded in 1985, HEI Hotels & Resorts is one of the nation’s leading privately held hotel investment and third-party management companies. Moniz is responsible for the day-to-day operation of HEI’s growing portfolio of 95+ hotels.

She oversees HEI’s team of regional leaders across all disciplines while also interacting directly with portfolio hotel asset managers and ownership representatives. Moniz has held positions within HEI Hotels & Resorts, including Executive Vice President, Senior Vice President of Independent Brands and Food & Beverage, and Regional Vice President of Operations, prior to being named Principal and COO.

3) Joanna Kurowska – IHG Hotels & Resorts

Joanna Kurowska has rapidly ascended through the ranks at IHG Hotels & Resorts, currently serving as Managing Director for the UK and Ireland. Her leadership is pivotal during a crucial growth phase, focusing on sustainable hotel performance and operational excellence. Joanna’s strategic vision and commitment to excellence have positioned IHG as a leader in the competitive hospitality market​.

4) Lita Aguirre – General Manager Delta by Marriott Riviera Nayarit 

As General Manager, Lita Aguirre brings a wealth of experience and a global perspective to her role at Delta by Marriott Riviera Nayarit. Her leadership is marked by a commitment to excellence and development, providing her team opportunities to grow and innovate in a dynamic hospitality landscape. Lita’s ability to inspire and lead has been instrumental in maintaining the high standards of the Marriott brand.

5) Kori Johnson – TGeneral Manager, Marriott International

Kori Johnson’s journey into hospitality began unexpectedly, but her dedication has led her to a significant leadership role at Marriott International. She believes in the power of motivation and creativity, striving to positively impact every property she manages. Her approach focuses on continual learning, innovation, and creating a supportive environment for her team.

At The Westin Washington DC Downtown, Kori was responsible for an $83 million+ total hotel renovation and rebranding to the premier flagship Westin in Washington DC, managing 807 rooms and 72,000 sq ft of meeting space. The rebranding also involved developing a new concept for the Food & Beverage outlet Root and Vine.

Why these five women are inspiring

These women exemplify the resilience, creativity, and dedication required to lead in the hotel industry. Their stories inspire others to pursue excellence and innovation in hospitality.

For those interested in understanding the broader context of roles and responsibilities in this rapidly evolving industry, explore more about what is hotel management.