While women have an outsized representation in the hospitality industry—especially in the role of meeting planners—the number of females in upper management and c-suite roles continues to lag behind those of men.
Charlotte St. Martin, president of The Broadway League, is a hotel, CVB and meetings industry veteran who took a hammer to the glass ceiling years ago.
“I thought it was absolutely appalling that women weren’t able to crack the glass ceiling in many corporate offices across the country,” St. Martin said. “When I was entering my career there weren’t many women in leading roles.”
Before taking her current role in 2006 as president of The Broadway League, a trade association representing commercial theater in the U.S. and the co-producer of the Tony Awards, St. Martin was active in MPI for nearly 30 years, having chaired the MPI Foundation and serving in various board roles.
St. Martin said she was responsible for convincing MPI to move its headquarters to Dallas when she was heading the Dallas CVB.
Her hospitality industry journey began at the Fairmont Dallas when it was under construction.
St. Martin was the first hire of the Loews Anatole Hotel, which lead to a three-decade-long career with Loews Hotels, where she held positions that included executive vice president of operations and marketing and president and CEO of the Loews Anatole Hotel.
Charlotte St. Martin: Women Are Ideal Leaders, Especially in Hospitality
While women are still underrepresented in hospitality industry leadership roles, St. Martin believes it is an ideal career for them.
“The hospitality industry in general is very good for women because they’re very flexible, and if you’re not flexible in the hospitality business you belong in another business,” she said.
[Related Content: Charlotte St. Martin on Putting Theatre in Meetings]
Women, of course, often struggle to balance career and family life, but the steel-willed St. Martin believes that if they prioritize and have the drive required to advance, they will find success.
“Everyone has to make accommodations for their leadership roles,” she said. “I live in New York City, where there’s probably more women in executive roles than anywhere in the country. They find ways to do it. I did a lot of speaking when I was in the hospitality business and I said we can’t give that excuse.
“If you feel you can’t manage both, then wait until you can until you go for that big job,” St. Martin added. “You have to find the ways to accommodate the jobs that you want.”
Charlotte St. Martin at the Tony Awards
Unapologetic about the necessity to focus sharply on career life, St. Martin has always volunteered for boards as a path to advancement.
“I’ve been on a board, served as a leader or chaired a job in an association every year since I was 23,” she said. “Do things that you’re not being paid to do and volunteer for things that will help you grow and expand your knowledge base so you can get that job you want.
“And if your organization doesn’t support that, you leave!” St. Martin added.
St. Martin said she was told early in her career that she would never be a general manager at a hotel company, so she left and joined Loews Hotels, where she rose to the position of CEO of the Anatole.
Charlotte St. Martin Finds a Home at The Broadway League
St. Martin finally left the hospitality industry because of the travel demands of the career, finding a home in the association world at The Broadway League, which has members in 140 U.S. cities and represents more than 260 venues. One of its primary duties includes negotiating all of the union contracts for New York City theaters, as well as handling traditional association duties.
“It just looks a little different because it’s Broadway and we’re dealing with high-profile shows and people, but it’s the same old hard work, by the way,” St. Martin said of the work of the association.
“It’s very entrepreneurial," she added. "I love the corporate world. I always have. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to know these incredible people who make magic every day.”
Charlotte St. Martin With the Rockettes at the Tony Awards
One of St. Martin's enduring passions is advocating for more-entertaining meetings, such as bringing elements of theater into the gatherings.
“I do think meetings tend to be very boring,” she said.
“The more people can incorporate entertainment in education and conferences, the better off the meetings industry is going to be,” St. Martin said. “It needs to happen. Don’t be afraid of it.”
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