Tourist resorts across the Maldives celebrated the role of female staff on this year’s International Women’s Day on 8 March with special guests and activities.
“There is no job in any industry that a woman cannot excel at, but we must accept that there is still a gender disparity in the Maldives tourism industry. For instance, only 12% of resort workers are women, but there are a lot of women who are involved in the industry in a myriad of ways,” observed Thoyyib Mohamed, CEO and managing director of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation.
“So first, we must change the way we count and gather data on this. Only then can we begin to truly close the gap, and this is just one of the avenues that we are actively working on to improve the roles of women in the tourism industry. MMPRC makes the pledge today to continue to uphold the values of gender parity within our workplace.“
Women outnumber men by 17% at the government’s tourism promotion company, accounting for 67% of heads of department and 87% of the marketing department
“It has been a great pleasure to watch how the times have changed so fast over the past few years, with more women joining the tourism industry in different roles,” said Fathimath Afra, MMPRC’s Chief Marketing Officer. “Maldivian women have always been strong and they have been vital to building the socio-economic fabric of this nation. This is evident from our history and it is repeating in a more profound way in our present and hopefully our future too. This is all due to the continued effort by our government, industry leaders, and individuals to cast aside long-held prejudices, overcome challenges and break biases.”
On the occasion of Women’s Day, female staff serving in previously male-dominated roles at Marriott Bonvoy’s resorts in the Maldives shared their experiences in the hospitality industry:
Aminath, Chef de Partie – Shio
Chef Aminath is from the largest atoll in the world, Huvadhoo. She started her career as a customer service agent (front office) at the tender age of 17 and due to her young age, her company gave her the opportunity to get a scholarship to study hospitality at the Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism (FHTS). Aminath is currently a Chef de Partie at Shio, the signature overwater grill restaurant at JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa.“Success is the small steps you take every day towards your main goal, it’s about discipline and consistency”, she says. “I am proud of my work at Shio, after a long time of learning the different sections of the kitchen, I can finally say that I am passionate about meat and grilling. It’s thrilling to see a beautiful steak get a golden crust and the sizzling sound. For me, JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa has given me the opportunity to learn what I love most and improve my skills as a chef and create a memorable experience for the guests. If you see most picket houses around the world or in the Maldives, only men are featured because they associate grilling and barbecue with masculinity. Marriott International is redefining the norm by creating women-only picket houses and giving us the opportunity to showcase our skills to the world. As a final word, I would like to thank Marriott International, and the team at JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa for giving me the opportunity to work at Shio and giving me the freedom to do what I love.”When asked if she has a message for all the other women reading her story, she adds, “To all the women who want to consider cooking as their career, yes it’s not easy and yes we have a lot of things to fight against, but companies are changing, the world is changing, it’s easier than before and in the future, it will be even easier for women. All I can say is that it’s worth the fight.”
Nishidha, Engineering Coordinator
Nishidha Mesta was born and raised in India and holds a degree in IT. She has worked as an Engineering Coordinator for 7 years. She currently works as an Engineering Coordinator at JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa.“As a child, my growing up years were guided by my parents and as an adult, I trust my ability to navigate through space. I have learned to appreciate life in the moment. I feel good about the work I do, contributing to the team to make our brand the customer’s favorite. I always enjoy helping my team members at work, no matter what type of work it is. I am passionate about learning new things in the technical field. Marriott International gives you the chance to grow and offers multiple opportunities. Working as the only woman in a male-oriented technical department and being appreciated for my efforts makes me proud every day. I am challenged to be better tomorrow than I am today. Empowering women is empowering humanity. The modern woman is no longer dependent. She is strong and confident. We must respect everyone, not because of their gender, but because of their own identity.”
Fathimath Bishaara Mohamed, Whatever/Whenever Agent
After a couple of roles in the Food & Beverage department at various resorts, Bisha joined W Maldives as a Whatever/Whenever Agent, her first in Front Office (Welcome). “It’s a whole new experience and so far I’m enjoying it!” she says. “Working in a resort or the hospitality industry was never on my mind when I finished my studies. I started having interest when I was an apprentice. That’s when I decided this is the life I want to have and this what I chose as my career. When asked about her thoughts on women empowerment she says, “I hear people always saying for girls working in resort is not a good idea. It’s always girls should stay at home. I don’t believe this. To be frank, a resort is a totally safe place to work and it’s flexible. It doesn’t matter if it’s a resort or not. Everyone should get a chance to fulfill their dream. Being an independent individual within your limit is one of the best feeling anybody will ever experience.”
Mariyam Risma, Demi Chef De Partie
Mariyam started working in the hospitality industry as an apprentice in 2013. Her first role was as a Steward and she worked in the same position for 9 months before moving to the kitchen. She is currently working at W Maldives as a DCDP and speaking of why she loves her role she says, “I am here to offer our guests an authentic Maldivian experience. I love experimenting with the local flavors to create a fusion version of the dishes. In 5 years I see myself running my own restaurant in my homeland so I can give opportunities to the younger generation to learn more about creating good food.”When asked about how she empowers women, she says, “By being a cheerleader for them. By advocating female colleagues whenever there is a chance. Specially, supporting women-run businesses. Over these last 9 years in this industry, I have trained female colleagues in the kitchen. I always tell everyone it is very important to be independent and I always support woman to be independent and free.”
LAURIE CAYLA, THAKURU (Butler)
Laurie, from France, is a Butler at The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort. She graduated with an International Management Master Degree in tourism & hospitality and took advantage of her studies to expand the international dimension of her profile by working in several countries since the last 7 years. She has mainly been working in the luxury hospitality and airline industries. “I applied to work as a Thakuru in Maldives for several reasons. First of all, I had been missing Maldives since I left the country 4 years ago. This country is unique and very different from what I have known so far, especially with it’s stunning landscape. I am always looking for unconventional experiences that can greatly enrich my overall knowledge and skill set. Being a Thakuru means embracing a customer facing role, the closest way to apprehend the guest relations. There is no routine, each and every day is different. It is a position that takes me outside my comfort zone and therefore makes me be proactive in learning.” When speaking of the challenge of being a woman in a foreign country she says, “I do consider the island lifestyle in a Resort as a challenge, but in a positive manner. It is more than just a new job, it is a whole new life that has to be built around this work environment. A different way to live compared to the cities, a different culture, a new language and no points of reference. It can make one feel lonely sometimes, even though one is surrounded by an amazing crowd of caring people willing to make me feel home and safe. An expatriation requires a lot of understanding, patience and flexibility. Being both a woman and a foreigner is a double challenge, the aim is not only improving one’s professional skills but managing to be seen as valuable as anyone else.”
DARIA SEDOVA, THAKURU (BUTLER)
Daria Sedova, from Moscow, Russia is a Butler at The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort. She holds two diplomas in foreign languages and Marketing. As a student she got the experience of working at different international events and conferences and in 2018 she joined the Royal Caribbean cruise ship – that was how her international career began. “I have always been so passionate to work with people, to make them happy, to solve their problems. I was looking forward to join an international team again, and as the Russian market in the Maldives has been growing, my language skills appeared to be a nice advantage. So I did my research and found a very exciting opportunity to become a part of the Marriott International family. For me to be a Thakuru means a lot, this is how I can grow and become more professional and open minded day by day. A butler has to communicate with all the departments to make sure everything is properly prepared and completed to ensure guest experiences are optimal. And it is a unique role, where you can put all your strength and talents to create unforgettable experiences and memories for people who chose our resort for their holidays, waiting to come to paradise.”When speaking of the challenge of being a woman in a foreign country she says, “As I have already worked in the international community, for me to join the team is a new journey, but not a challenge. I am so proud and happy to arrive at the island and to get the best and warmest possible welcome. The main challenge for me is to cooperate with local men as we have differences in the culture, as a European lady, I have been raised in feminist time, so I am used to equality of gender. But now it is not a big difficulty, it only means that I have to work on myself and look deeper to understand new people and their mind sets”
Shalinee Ahmed, Market Director, Sales
Born in Maldives, Shalinee started off her 20 year long career at a communication company. As she believed that the best opportunities for employment and more importantly, personal growth lay in the midst of the hospitality industry she did not stop looking for them. She wanted to excel in everything she did and therefore, she wanted to join a company that could pave her way for that possibility. She kept actively looking for a position in a company that was known to be focused on their employees’ development. Sure enough, she was able to grasp an entry position in Universal Resorts as a Contracting Executive. She eagerly started her journey at Universal Resorts and made her way up and build her 20-year long career with the company. Her journey eventually led her to Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa as a Market Director of Sales and she considers every step of the way that has led her to where she is today, to be a career highlight for her. All the small steps that were taken along the way – from her very first job in the hospitality industry, to all the experiences that she is able to carry till today, to all the wonderful people she has met from across the globe – are all career highlights for her. As much as she loves her home in the beautiful islands, she has set different goals for her next step in her career. For her to broaden her experience in the hospitality field, she strives to seek her calling in a different destination. She considers working at Sheraton Maldives Resort & Spa as already realizing two of her goals. The style and way of operating is a learning curve as it would be for any new organization that you would work for where under such circumstances personal growth would be inevitable. She is very pleased to be a part of such a wonderful organization and considers the resort community to be very professional and accommodating. When asked what it is like for a woman to be working in the hospitality industry she said, “It is challenging for women to be working in any industry and it is also encouraging for us women to see an increase in equal opportunities within the hospitality industry based on the skillset. This is an industry that can offer numerous opportunities in different areas to grow, both professionally and personally, from learning new skills to meeting people from different countries and cultures, which is a learning experience within itself. There are countless opportunities available where you can excel and grow.” Shalinee’s formula for success in this industry is hard work, continual learning, adaptation to changes and perseverance.
Amara Shafeeq, Marketing & Communications Manager
A native to the beautiful islands of Maldives, Amara started her journey after moving to Malaysia at an early age. After spending a few years in boarding school at Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar, she moved to Kuala Lumpur for her further studies. Initially starting off with an undergraduate degree in International Business, a module in basic Marketing and the coursework that followed piqued her interest in Marketing Communications and she changed her major during her second year. This is where she discovered her creativity and natural flair for storytelling. Combining her passion for Marketing and love for the environment and conservation, she did her Bachelors dissertation on Waste Management and Recycling in Maldives; researching the lack of appropriate disposal methods in the country. Concluding her undergraduate studies, she made her way back to the motherland and got the chance to work as a Social Media Coordinator for the national Bank of Maldives, post which she moved to England for her further studies and found herself back in the islands again, in 2019. Amara realized how truly vast the Marketing field was when she was back in the Maldives and searching for a suitable job. She wanted a job that allowed her to do what she loved whilst also being able to contribute to the environment and marine conservation. It did not take long for Amara to settle into her new environment at Sheraton Maldives and she quickly began to love everything about her job as the resort is highly focused on sustainability initiatives with their coral propagation program, plastic free initiatives, and water bottling. She was able to incorporate sustainability into her work, promoting the coral adoption program at the resort with media, making connections with likeminded people and building a rapport on a more international scale. When asked about her career goals and what it is like for a woman working in the hospitality industry in the Maldives she said, “How important tourism is to the Maldives goes without saying. Being able to make use of my education and combine my passion for sustainability and conservation at my workplace and being able to make my contribution to the country I was born in is really rewarding. I am proud of myself and my journey. Since I am where I want to be at my career at this age I will continue to try to reach for the stars. I am truly blessed to have amazing, encouraging parents and to come from an incredibly supportive family with very strong female role models and knowing strong female colleagues as well. I have felt skeptical eyes on me when I first started working in the hospitality industry although not as bad as what I have heard other women face in this industry. My mum, my sister who always keeps me grounded, and my aunts are my biggest female inspiration. My family’s love, my mum’s unwavering support and encouragement, and my dad’s strong work ethics and discipline have shaped me into the person I am today. It brings me joy to see that more women, especially local women are finding their rightful place in this industry. I am a huge advocate for female empowerment, and I genuinely believe than women can move mountains. Having a strong and confident character goes a long way; people respect you if you really try to just be yourself and apply your skills and talent to the best of your abilities. Mindset is key; never letting someone else bring down your spirits and having confidence in yourself will take you farther than you ever think you could go.”