Skip to the content
03/07/2024 IHG Careers Team

Inspiring Inclusion this International Women’s Day

At IHG, we're committed to giving everyone Room to Belong. To celebrate IHG’s International Women's Day theme of Inspiring Inclusion, we spoke to Madisse Matar, Cluster Director of Sales and Marketing, for the pre-opening InterContinental Residences & Crowne Plaza Dubai Business Bay, about her journey with IHG, and why investment in women is so important in a typically male-dominated market.

I grew up in Lebanon in a wonderful, but traditionally quite male-dominated community. I had always been curious about the world beyond those borders, so when the opportunity came for me to start work as a Sales Executive in Dubai, I knew I had to take it. It wasn’t an easy decision, especially as I would be the first woman in my family to leave the country, but I had to follow my heart.

When it came to telling my family - particularly my male relatives - that I was leaving, I knew it couldn’t be a case of asking permission, it had to be me telling them, respectfully, ‘This is happening, and I’m going to need your support.’ And to their credit, they gave me that support, because they saw that this was a huge opportunity for me.

That was really the first example in my life of the importance of male allyship and how crucial it can be in helping women go further, and in breaking down barriers.

That first year after I left home was really challenging, but I knew I had to stick at it and prove to myself, and to my family, that this was the right decision. I couldn’t allow myself to fail. Looking back now, I’m very proud at how far I’ve come, and I know my family are too, especially seeing me awarded IHG Sales Leader of the Year for the IMEA Region in 2023 and 2018 and shortlisted as Salesperson of the Year by Hotelier Middle East 2021. It was proof of their faith in me.

My journey with IHG started around eleven years ago - a year after that first leap into the unknown - when I was offered the role of Sales Manager at the Crowne Plaza Dubai. The Director of Sales and Marketing who hired me was a woman, and she became a very inspirational figure in my life, a powerful role model. Her approach - calm and kind, but firm as well - gave me the blueprint for the kind of leader I knew I wanted to be when the time came.

I’ve been very fortunate that this kind of female leadership and empowerment has been a recurring theme throughout my career with IHG, and it has been incredibly inspiring and motivating to see women leading the way in positions of power and influence; something I feel especially drawn to reflect upon as we prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day this year.

But of course, it’s important to remember that initiatives like IWD are not about promoting women ahead of men; they’re simply about striving for equality.  Because - let’s face it - we’re still living in a world where women often need to work twice as hard as their male colleagues to prove themselves in the same roles.  Men as allies have a huge part to play in changing that, and they are, in some ways, the most crucial part of the equation.

Many men, of course, already appreciate the need for strong female leadership, and see how greatly that can benefit a company.  While I have been lucky to experience male allyship on many occasions at IHG, there are still some things I’d urge male colleagues at all levels to keep in mind this IWD and beyond.

The first thing is about changing your perspective: it’s about seeing women as equals, about shedding that unconscious bias that we all have.

Treat us not as 'female' leaders or 'female' colleagues but just as leaders and colleagues.  Look at everyone's talents equally when it comes to hiring - check the skills, check the CV, check the experience, and base your choice of candidate on this.  It’s not about box-ticking, and women don’t want to be promoted out of a sense of tokenism: it should always be based on merit.

The second thing is about keeping in mind that women are often juggling other responsibilities alongside their career, such as family, but this is not a reason to assume they will be less reliable than their male counterparts. In fact, it’s those time-management skills and that level of discipline that can often be a real asset in the workplace.

Of course, there’s also a need for companies to ensure there are structures in place to support women in finding that crucial work-life balance. Fortunately, IHG are way ahead of the curve on this, which I discovered when I had my twins. The message we get, every single day, is that the company is supporting you to have your own life because they believe this will help you excel in your career and bring your whole self to work.

That ethos extends across the whole company as part of the Room to Belong promise, which ensures that no matter my gender, my colour, where I come from, my ethnicity, my religion - at IHG, I truly can be myself.

And yes, there is room to belong here in the Middle East too! I know people sitting on the other side of the world might think that perhaps you can’t fully express yourself here, especially as a woman, but it simply isn’t true. In Dubai and UAE in particular, the government invests in people.

The lifelong learning opportunities and training offered by IHG really work in synergy with this - a fact borne out by the high retention rate for colleagues here, with some having been with the company for more than 10 years.

It’s so important that businesses like IHG show up and support International Women’s Day because it sets a precedent for the rest of the industry and the rest of the world.  It’s all about sharing those success stories, and celebrating those female colleagues, and it's so good to see how things are evolving here, with programmes like RISE helping prepare women to be leaders, as well as male leaders helping to lift up aspiring female colleagues too.

Here in the UAE, IWD is a relatively new thing, but it’s growing in popularity year on year, and I believe it’s already setting a positive example for the girls who will go on to become the female leaders of the future.  If I had one final thought to leave you with, it would be this: celebrating International Women’s Day is a wonderful thing, but we need to get to the point where it’s not just one day, but every day of every year.  And in this, I truly believe that IHG is leading the way.

Related stories

'Room for You': Building an Employer Brand for Everyone - Insights from IHG's VP of Talent Acquisition

Eunice Clements-Tweedie, Vice President of Global Talent Acquisition, discusses IHG's strategy for how employer branding shows up when attracting, recruiting, and retaining talent.

Read more

GM, André Buldini: bringing sustainability, wellness and a touch of the extraordinary to Luxury & Lifestyle

GM André Buldini shares his personal journey and how he inspires excellence as the GM of this prestigious and unique hotel.

Read more

Leading a new era of Luxury & Lifestyle to create truly unique guest experiences

We caught up with Vignette GM Umaporn to find out how she empowers her local community in leading a new era of luxury and lifestyle.

Read more
Back to top