“Girls’ Day”: Driving Positive Change in the Workplace
Today, on March 28 we celebrate “Girls’ Day” – it’s a nationwide initiative in Germany which looks at the professional future of girls and enables young female students to gain insights into different areas of working environments. On this occasion, we asked Clare Gates, HR Director at MEINIGNER Hotels, what really matters for your career choice and how you can discover your personal strengths. Together with her team, she is responsible for more than 1000 MEININGER employees in eight countries.
Clare, you are the HR Director at MEININGER Hotels and together with your team, you are responsible for the satisfaction and motivation of more than 1000 employees. How do you do that? And how do you not lose sight of your own professional development?
I don’t believe that I am responsible for the satisfaction and motivation of the staff. I may own the tools and techniques that help us achieve a heightened level of satisfaction for each and every one of the team but it’s down to leaders and the people themselves. We all have a voice and we should use it, what is important is that everyone can feel empowered and have the courage of their convictions. MEININGER really is a fabulous place to work and the reason for that is that we all can influence and make things happen that in turn gives us the satisfaction which allows us to grow, learn and develop into a better version of ourselves.
What has encouraged you in the past to take your career path?
Firstly, I love the career that I have chosen and every company that I have worked for as I have gained so much both personally and professionally and I have made many friends along the way. There have been times when I have had no grand master plan and quite simply been lucky enough to join a company that I have loved, MEININGER is one of those.
But whether the choices I made have been more by luck than judgement, I always ask whether I can make a difference, add value and of course have some fun.
What do you think was important in your career choice?
Whilst I came into HR by accident, I have purposefully stayed in this career because I really believe that the role of HR can make a difference for good. HR has evolved so much over the years and when I am talking to my colleagues on the Board, I see that they too, believe that HR is critical to the business and it’s not about the systems, processes, organisational structures or KPIs, it’s so much more than that. It’s the conversations that we are having about our PEOPLE, who they are, what their aspirations are, the challenges that they might be facing, how we can support them and how we can nurture each and every one of our talented individuals by helping them shape their careers.
You are a member of the five-person board management at MEININGER Hotels and the only woman. How does that feel?
Whilst I may be the only female member of the Board (that is 20 %) I’ve actually been the only female executive at a number of organisations and, in the main, it’s never been an issue. In fact, as years have gone by, it has become less of a concern. That said we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that women are generally under-represented in senior positions in many organisations but MEININGER leads the way with over 70 % female representation at our management level and this is done purely based on talent. We have some amazing leaders in this business regardless of gender!
Does MEININGER Hotels pay attention to a fair distribution of the sexes?
We are always having intelligent and informed conversations about diversity, and I am very mindful that we have an organisation that embraces people from all walks of life and if we get to a point where we, at MEININGER, have to create a KPI for diversity, then I think that we have got something wrong, because, I am proud to say that we have a set of leaders who want to appoint people on merit and not because of their gender, their religious background or age but because of what they offer to MEININGER and what we, in return, can give to them in terms of career, opportunity and a work environment that clearly celebrates a very rich and diverse workforce.
What is MEININGER doing to promote the development and equality of its employees?
Every day we are learning, we have to because we are growing so quickly that we need to change and adapt in an organisation, which is expanding globally and therefore cultural awareness is an imperative. It is essential that not only our leaders but everyone is aware of the diversity around us and that people will respond differently when dealing with unfamiliar situations. In our leadership programmes, we are mindful of including diversity into our learnings, but we are also careful in how it is promoted as we want to develop a level of self-awareness alongside the pure teaching of this subject. For me, MEININGER is a company that is kind, considerate and all embracing of whomever joins our company and for that, I am very proud to be part of this organisation.
In your opinion, how does one find one’s own personal strengths that help to find the right profession in the future?
You really have to believe in yourself, resilience is essential but also you must be able to compromise and adapt. Sometimes, we don’t get everything we want in life and our journey takes a route that we never expect but from that we learn, we grow and we find our path and a career in a profession that can make a difference.