Six Inspiring Stories and Hospitality and Leadership Tips from Female Leaders at Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley

Palo Alto, Silicon Valley, U.S.A.

March is Women’s History Month, which had its beginnings less than two hours north of Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley at East Palo Alto, in Santa Rosa, California as “Women’s History Week” in 1978.

This month – and always – Four Seasons celebrates female colleagues, whose authenticity and excellence strengthen the global Four Seasons community and the guest experience.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, several female leaders from various departments within the Hotel share their experiences, reflecting on females in history and the impacts those women had to them and to society. They also celebrate the opportunities of the future and impart tips for emerging trailblazers in the hospitality industry and beyond.

Find their stories below, shared in their voice, as well throughout March 2022 on @fspaloalto.

Jennifer Stine, Accountant

As we enter Women’s History Month, I would like to reflect on how my mother Addie Brown impacted my life and pushed me to be the best women I can be. My mother was born in the early 1940s in Forester, Alabama. She was the second oldest of eight siblings. In her times, jobs were limited so she picked cotton to help the family make ends meet. School was not a priority for women and especially women of colour.

In the 1960s she attended meetings for the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) to fight for equal rights. One night that stands out was in 1965, when she attended a meeting at a house in Prattville, Alabama and was trapped for days as the house was being attacked by gunshots. The National Guards were called to assist them out of the house. This did not stop her from trying to make a difference. A few days later the group met at Saint Jude High School in Montgomery, Alabama and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, where she later got arrested for protesting.

At the age of 24 she decided to move to California for a better life. She has always encouraged me, saying that I can be and do whatever I put my mind to. As a kid she was my number one supporter and till this very day she pushes me and praises me for all of my accomplishments. As a mother of two daughters, I can only hope that I leave an impression on them as my mother has done for me.

For women who are looking to pursue a career in hospitality my advice is to follow your heart.  If you enjoy helping people and know you are making a difference while doing it, then this is the career for you.

Vanessa Rodriguez, Security Manager

The female who I would like to reflect on is Maria Izquierdo, a pioneering Mexican artist with several well-known paintings. Maria was also a writer, with several quotes I have enjoyed, including, “Above all women must unite and fight together strongly to improve their condition. Women have to cease being luxury objects and transform themselves into a factor within the class struggle; they ought to evolve socially and participate directly in the revolutionary struggle.”

In a male dominated career, it may be a difficult fight, but any woman can gain respect in this field if you are given the opportunity to prove and show your talents. As a woman in security, who has been given the opportunity to lead a team, the advice I can share is that no matter what career goals you strive for always remember that you are more than capable to lead a team. As a woman, you can gain the respect of anyone as long as you give respect. Also, regardless of the title you have, never forget where you came from.

Asena Topal, Catering Manager

I am very inspired by all women in history who fought for women rights and the right to vote. I support women in my personal and professional life to speak up their truth and encourage them stand up for their rights and express their opinions.

Hospitality is a very dynamic and mainly ever-changing industry. Since the environment is quite active and constantly evolving, my very first advice would be “change.” Be open to change, dare to change and be the change.

Once we accept this fact, everything else flows. I had experience in luxury hotels including Four Seasons before I moved to the United States. If I did not embrace the change, I would have not been where I am today. If you love what you do and have integrity with commitment, there is nothing women cannot achieve along with enthusiasm, strong communication and a great attitude. Another essential point is that when women support each other, incredible things happen, not only in hospitality.

Courtney Persichitte, Pastry Chef

There are so many women throughout history that have inspired me in and out of the kitchen. I come from a family of very strong women where education and hard work were made very important early on. One of the women that most stands out to me is Madame Bressart.

She was a French chef and proprietress of Le Cordon Bleu during the early-mid nineteenth century. She's credited with having trained some of the top chefs in France, including Julia Child. Although we don’t hear much about her, she was a major part of the modern French culinary revolution and has served as an inspiration to generations of female chefs.

As a female chef, one of my biggest pieces of advice to aspiring female chefs is to stay strong in your conviction. This isn’t an easy industry so find chefs early on in your career that are there to educate, uplift, and push you. I was incredibly lucky to find lifelong mentors when I first started and that recognized my passion. Don’t be afraid to jump out of your comfort zone, some of the best experiences I’ve had in this industry was when I took a chance on myself. Stay strong, find your people, and work hard.

Rosario Perez, Assistant Director of Food & Beverage

Lady Diana showed the world how to be generous, all with an incredible smile and enthusiasm. She led not only her children, but many other young girls and boys by example. She stood for what she believed was most needed in the world, using her position and abilities to be at service.

I am impacted by her story because she shows that nothing can stop you. Being a victim of your own problems does not take you anywhere but being at service gives hope and inspires so many people to leave the world a better place.

My advice to those interested in hospitality would be to keep your heart open to grow. Do not settle.  Set a goal for yourself, uplift yourself and uplift whoever is close to you. Growth is equal to love.

Always see the positive side. When you encounter negative situations, take a deep breath, and choose three things that your workplace has that you are grateful for.

Be at service and avoid having expectations from results or from others. Expectations feed frustration.

Find mentors that you can look up to. Be loyal to them. Keep them close to you.

Rest and find spaces where you can focus on yourself. That's where creativity is born.

Little things are the big things. The way you do one thing is practicing the way you will do everything. If you are starting your career, whatever you are doing, do it with love, respect and insight.

Renee Glembocki, Sales Manager

While most of the women who stand out in my mind are the women who were influential in making me the person I am today (my mom, grandma, etc), the other person who stands out for me is Oprah Winfrey. When I was younger, my mom watched her show every afternoon. She worked full time, so she'd record it and I’d later watch it with her every day.  I think this was partly because I wanted to spend time with my mom, but I was also in awe of how much good Oprah was doing for people (especially women) on her show.

She didn't shy away from talking about life-changing topics such as domestic violence, substance abuse, fertility issues, racism, politics, education, and many other things. In these days long before social media influencers, I always felt like she was committed to using her platform for good, and for encouraging more empathy and education to help change many of these issues for women.

My first piece of advice would be to get experience working in an entry level position so that you can start to learn and ins and outs of the industry. Second, don't be afraid to ask questions or share your opinion. Not only will this help you grow, but it will also help you stand out as someone who is passionate about what they do. Lastly, be confident in your experience, your skills, and what you contribute to the team.