Know your people, know yourself: insights from Disney’s top female execs
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Know your people, know yourself: insights from Disney’s top female execs

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What does it take for a woman to be successful at Disney? Talent and determination are a given, but a panel of the organisation’s female leaders at IAAPA gave extra insights into their journey to the top and the challenges they faced along the way.

Tracey Powell, for example, is now vice president of revenue management at Walt Disney World in Florida, but she had previously built a career to executive director level at Carnival Cruise Lines. She took a step backwards to join Disney but became an executive again within two years.

Her great lesson in managing both teams and guests was to "walk a mile in their shoes": "I had the opportunity to lead 10,000 cast members and I had to learn what it meant to be frontline, and what that meant for the guest experience," she said. "I became a housekeeper and a greeter so I could learn what it meant to be day-in and day-out with our guests."

For Melissa Vallquete, vice president, Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort, there used to be a great deal of advice that she should have more "command" or "physical presence" in her leadership style. "It felt to me like I was being coached to be a little more masculine," she said.

Then Meg Crofton was promoted to president at Disney World, and it was a career-changing moment for Vallquete. "Her style of leadership was very different. Even in her gentle, quieter style, there was no question when you were in the room with her that she was in charge."

Vallquette now reflects that it doesn’t matter if someone at the top looks or acts differently to you and your own style. "You can be the first one to do it your way," she said.

Rachel Quinn, general manager at Magic Kingdom Entertainment, Walt Disney World Resort, was another who had enjoyed a career before Disney, working as a dancer on cruise ships before moving into a leadership role and then joining the Disney Cruise Line in 1998.

Along the way has come a realisation that happiness is of central importance, even in aspects of the job where it seems unlikely – safety training, for example.

"At Magic Kingdom, we do a biannual safety town hall, which is fully produced with themes and actors. It’s all about engagement. If you can engage your cast and connect with them, they take in information better.

"It’s a different way to engage them in safety. Year after year as we’ve done this, injuries have gone down, so it works."

To read the full article see Issue 1 2019 of Attractions Management here.

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What does it take for a woman to be successful at Disney? Talent and determination are a given, but a panel of the organisation’s female leaders at IAAPA gave extra insights into their journey to the top and the challenges they faced along the way.
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