Leading A REDvolution
It’s no secret that hospitality has traditionally been a male-dominated sector, specifically when it comes to managerial positions but Carly de Jong, the newly appointed Curator of the Radisson RED Rosebank is leading a revolution with a women-focused team and a diversity dream. This is her story.
Carly de Jong grew up in Cape Town and studied public relations after school. However, she wasn’t sure of what she wanted to do until she found herself working at a hotel just outside of London. “From then on, I knew I would always be part of the hospitality industry — sometimes the bug bites and you just know!”
During this time, she worked her way through a series of promotions and gained key industry experience, progressing from front desk to management. She later returned to South Africa, where she joined the Best Western in Zonnebloem, Cape Town.
Carly’s career with the Radisson Hotel Group started in 2003 when she joined the company as a service manager at the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront. Thereafter she joined The Bay Hotel in Camps Bay as an Assistant Front Office Manager, followed by eight years at the Southern Sun Cape Sun where she advanced from Front Office Manager to Rooms Division Manager.
Returning to Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront in 2014, Carly was drawn to the group’s efforts to support and advance female employees something that hasn’t always been the norm in the hospitality industry.
“When I joined the industry, female General Managers were virtually unheard of! Many women were calling the shots and overseeing operations but, more often than not, they were not given the recognition of a title. The shift that I have witnessed and been a part of during the last decade has been industry-defining,” she says.
Staying True To You
Carly notes that being a woman in leadership is a challenge regardless of the industry. “The most difficult part is dealing with perceptions and understanding that you are not always going to get the balance right.
“My personal challenge has been around trying to remain true to myself, rather than worrying about being judged for being too emotional, cold or any of the other adjectives which are often tacked onto female leaders. This process is ongoing and is part of why I am so excited to be leading a hotel built on the premise of being unapologetically true to oneself,” she explains.
“There were times in my career where I’ve felt as if I needed to fight to be taken seriously; however, I have been privileged to be lifted up by incredible men and women in the industry. When I entered hospitality, female general managers were very rare.
“I was lucky to be mentored by two amazing women in leadership. Having role models to show me that women could lead hotels was a game-changer. Similarly, I am proud to show aspiring young hoteliers that leadership positions are not gender-based.”
Carly's leadership team at the Radisson RED Rosebank is made up almost entirely of women. “In addition to me, our Lead Marketing and Communications, our Lead Finance (financial controller), Lead Coach (HR), Lead Fixer (chief engineer), Lead Rev Gen (reservations manager), Lead Make It Clean (housekeeper) and even our new mixologist are all women,” she says.
Now as only the second woman in Africa at the helm of a Radisson RED Hotel Carly is focused on leading the hotel to build ties with the community by developing an already vibrant team and ensuring the hotel lives up to its brand ethos. She is also passionate about developing the next generation of female hoteliers.
“My number one recommendation to women entering the industry at this time is to never give up. There are many moments in which I have felt disheartened but, seeing the progress that has been made and the amazing women in leadership that the hotel industry has today, I feel extremely proud and positive.”
“Just in the Rosebank, Johannesburg area, I find myself surrounded by female-led hotel teams. Over and above this, an encouraging trend in hospitality is women moving into more of the typically male departments. A great example of this is our talented and very experienced Lead Fixer aka Chief Engineer, Charmaine Spasojevic.”
Looking ahead Carly says her vision for Radisson RED Rosebank Johannesburg is to create a workplace, playground and hotel that embraces diversity and is centred around the community.
“While the RED brand is bold and stylish, each hotel is very strongly rooted in the culture of its location. Expect a hotel that captures the work, live and play spirit of Joburg’s favourite up-and-coming suburb,” she says.
Author: Liesl Frankson