Not an all inclusive​

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Not an all inclusive​

By Janice Cardinale | Apr 25, 2022

I can admit that I don’t know everything. I have never had to work for or under anyone. I also don’t know what is going on in the minds of leaders when they say or do things that are blatantly a disgrace to the integrity of women. But honestly, the intent or thought isn’t important to this story. What is important is the effect that words can have on a younger generation of women, and the impression that it leaves in their minds.

Conferences are back with a vengeance, and when the BC Tourism and Hotel conference took place on March 9 in Richmond, B.C., the 500 participants were excited to re-unite with their peers and colleagues after two years.

The chair of both the Tourism Industry Association of B.C. (TIABC) and the B.C. Hotel Association (BCHA) took to the stage with his opening remarks, welcoming everyone. According to those in attendance, he asked the women in the room to stand in honor of International Women’s Day, but then after a round of applause, told them to “go clean some rooms and do dishes.”

Can you hear the collective groans and the disrespect that every woman in that room must have felt? Yet, no one said a word! This dose of misogyny was unexpected, unwelcomed and met with hostility.

He followed up, by saying it was a joke, and that there were a lot of bureaucrats in the room and he was highlighting the staffing crisis.

Ladies, how do we convince 21st-century leaders that we’re overdue for some R-E-S-P-E-C-T? If I didn’t know better, I’d say we were living in 1973 not 2022.

We are creatures of comfort and it is no surprise that no one had anything to say. As humans, our instincts are to protect ourselves and not speak up in fear of creating a reputation that might stick to our persona, like a label on a package. Not Trina Notman, the hero of this story. Notman is the vice-president of marketing and communications for Accent Hotels and Hotel Zed. She also spent six years as the CMO for Tourism Victoria. She was in the audience and was shocked and embarrassed. “He was literally laughing at us. It felt terrible,” she re-calls.

But when inappropriate comments fall on deaf ears, who’s responsibility is it to change the narrative? It takes a certain type of person who understands that fear has no place when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion.

The organizers and other members of the board took no responsibility in removing him from the stage or conference. Notman was appalled and innately knew that his behavior was going to be condoned by the leaders who thought it would just go away quietly.

Trina wrote this letter to the CEO of TIABC

I am at the conference and I would like to have the opportunity to speak with you about this morning’s comments to the businesswomen in the audience. They were insulting, disrespectful and harmful.

His first comment was bad enough, his attempt to make light of it was even worse.

I would like to explain to you why this isn’t okay and why it shouldn’t be ignored.

I hope to see you here.

Trina

How can we simply ignore these types of condescending remarks? Silence is golden and an easy way out, but when Notman received a response from both the CEO of TIABC, a male veteran, and female CEO of the BCHA, both were horrified, but neither actioned his removal. One of them had the audacity to say, “everyone likes him.”

Finally, after some applied pressure, the chair met up with Notman. He wanted to apologize and while doing that, she tried to speak, and he said “I don’t want you to talk. I just want to give you, my apology.

You know when someone is being sincere, and in this case, it was far from it, she says. During his employment with Sun Peaks hotel, his history of making distasteful comments were well known. In 2016 at this hotel, he reminded female staff members, “The season is like rape, if it is inevitable, you might as well lay back and enjoy it.” This was one of many disparaging remarks he made, yet stayed on until 2019, when he was finally removed.

The BCHA and TIABC released a joint statement the next morning at breakfast, but it was only on screen while everyone was busy having coffee and networking. No attention was drawn to it and hardly anyone noticed it. Talk about the least they could do.

Her determination to find a solution led her to tweet out the story and write it in stone on LinkedIn. This story exploded with an outpouring of more stories, comments and support from woman around the globe. Media outlets in Canada, such as CTV news and CBC news, both wrote articles about what happened and Notman finally felt like everyone was listening.

Apology came almost a week after remarks

It took nearly a week for a public apology which was released by the BCHA. It stated that “he had deeply regretted his insensitive and inappropriate comments.”

“Not only did his words cause distress for several women in the audience but he also offended many other delegates,” he said.

He announced he was resigning from his positions on the boards of the TIABC and the BCHA.

The B.C. Chamber of Commerce says it has also accepted his resignation from its board of directors, and according to his LinkedIn profile, he is no longer on the advisory council for Thompson Rivers University’s School of Business and Economics.

In the words of Gloria Steinem, “the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off”

But Notman says “that doesn’t change the lingering issues of inequality within the hospitality and tourism industry, including pay gaps, lack of representation in leadership roles and discriminatory attitudes that affect women and people from other underrepresented groups.”

The CEOs of the conference’s two organizers, TIABC and the BCHA, released a written statement of apology to social media.

They described the comments as “a stark reminder of how far we have to go to achieve equality, respect and empowerment for the women of our sector.”

The two organizations posted a follow up statement. saying they have “taken decisive action that includes wholeheartedly committing to additional steps to elevate and empower women in tourism and hospitality.”

Industry organizations promise ‘decisive action’

That statement doesn’t specify what those steps are, but that more will be revealed in the coming months.

In his apology, the accused said he would use this experience as an opportunity to learn about how to make the industry a “safer place” for women and other underrepresented groups.

“As much as my actions caused harm, industry leaders like me have the opportunity to make amends if given the chance,” he said.

In closing, I would like to honor Trina Notman for standing up for all women in the travel, tourism and hospitality industry. The support from men and women at the conference who sought her out to chat with them was overwhelming. But most importantly, her employer and teammates had her back on this 100%. The CEO of TIABC even talked to her CEO in hopes she could help keep Trina quiet and she said no. She said, “15 years ago, I might have said, okay, but not now. Now we are trained to speak up.”

Notman said, “I am so grateful for these people.” The empathy, compassion and out-pouring gave her the strength she needed to press on.

While this story is factual, the names of the leaders are protected. The good news is that they have all learned a valuable lesson, which hopefully by telling this story, will help others to acknowledge when they find themselves in a situation that begs for change and action. It is our responsibility to educate younger generations starting out in the tourism and hospitality industry so that they practice the work of many generations before them.

 

Author

Janice Cardinale
Janice Cardinale

Janice Cardinale has been named a Woman to Watch, a Top 100 Entrepreneur by Smart Meetings magazine and a powerful woman by Reiimagine in 2022. She is a heart-centric leader, visionary, mentor and change maker. As an editor, facilitator and speaker, she talks on mental health and is leading the newly formed EVENT MINDS matter, a community for event professionals, building brave spaces to amplify the industry's conversation on mental health.  She is the board chair for Seneca College’s event management and creative design program and has opened up her own charity under the name of “Giving Butterflies.”  Janice is passionate about global trends, human connection, the future of events and people.