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Marriott Joins Global Commitment to Economically Empower Women Worldwide

The inaugural graduating class of the Akilah Institute for Women in Rwanda. Marriott will bring 15 women from this graduating class to work and train in Marriott hotels in Dubai. The women receive on-the-job skills, leadership training and will open the company’s first Sub-Saharan Africa hotel — the Kigali Marriott Hotel in 2014. A second class of 20 women will begin the program later this year. | Image credit: Akilah Institute for Women/Marriott

Marriott has joined more than a dozen corporations and non-governmental organizations in a five-year commitment to expand its engagement with female-owned businesses outside the United States, especially in emerging economies.

Working with WEConnect International and Vital Voices, two prominent NGOs that support and promote the economic potential of women, Marriott will be part of the pledge to train 15,000 female business owners and spend $1.5 billion with their companies by 2018.

Speaking at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI,) on a panel about “Women Decision-Makers in the Global Economy,” Marriott International, Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer, Arne Sorenson voiced the company’s commitment to supporting the advancement of women as part of the growth strategy for the global hospitality company, which has 3800 hotels in 72 countries.

“Our portfolio of hotels will benefit tremendously if women are able to achieve their full potential in the global economy,” said Sorenson. “That’s why we are focused on advancing women in our company’s management and executive ranks, gaining their loyalty as customers, creating economic opportunity as hotel owners, and nurturing women-owned businesses through our supply chain.”

“This is an important strategy for Marriott’s global growth and the vitality of communities where we do business,” she added.

Marriott says that a commitment to diversity and inclusion has been woven through the fabric of its culture since its founding more than 85 years ago. Through the company’s Global Diversity & Inclusion Council, which drives Marriott’s global strategy, each of the company’s five Continent Presidents, have regional diversity and inclusion goals, focusing on customers, associates, hotel owners and the women and diverse-owned businesses that sell goods and services to Marriott.

Female-owned businesses make up the largest spend with diverse groups, accounting for 10 percent of Marriott’s total purchases of products, the company says. In 2012, Marriott spent $257 million with 4,000 women-owned businesses in North America alone.

“We know our hotels are greenhouses for executive talent and can elevate women through leadership training,” Sorenson said.

Marriott says it is already working with women-owned businesses that are supplying hotels in China with high-quality beef, wooden and bamboo crafts and uniforms. The company is also investing in women in rural Sichuan Province through its Nobility of Nature environmental project, which supports sustainable bee-keeping cooperatives that produce honey for use in Marriott-operated hotels in China.

In Rwanda, Marriott has partnered with a vocational school called the Akilah Institute for Women to bring 15 women from its first graduating class to work and train in Marriott hotels in Dubai. The women receive on-the-job skills, leadership training and will be prepared after 18 months to return, as part of the management team, to open the company’s first Sub-Saharan Africa hotel — the Kigali Marriott Hotel in 2014. A second class of 20 women will begin the program later this year, Marriott says. The company is also working, pre-opening, to identify female-owned businesses that can become part of the supply chain.

Marriott says it plans to follow the same model in Haiti, where it worked with the Clinton Foundation to find a partner to build a Marriott hotel in partnership with Digicel. In Latin America, the company has pledged to identify and build capacity among high-potential women-owned business through mentorship, supplier readiness training and engagement as potential suppliers, beginning in Mexico.

In its recent 2013 Sustainability Report update, Marriott said it is looking to move beyond its current global footprint and focus on providing sustainable economic activity and local employment. In coming years, more than half of its new hotels will be located in emerging markets, where tourism is a major driver of new jobs and economic development.


Currently based in Washington, D.C, Mike Hower is a writer and strategic communicator helping to drive the conversation at the intersection of sustainable business and public policy. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and History from University of California,… [Read more about Mike Hower]


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